Orthodox Coptic bishop addresses bishops at plenary

Deborah Gyapong / Canadian Catholic News.
SAINTE-ADELE, Que. (CCN)- 9/10/13

CCCB members hear about Mubarak regime and Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood

Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Mina shared the plight of Copts and other Christians in Egypt with Canada’s Catholic Bishops Sept. 23.

“Living in Canada and experiencing freedom of religion is something people take for granted,” Mina told the more than 80 bishops gathered at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) annual plenary here. “It is my pleasure to clarify for your graces reality of events taking place in Egypt at this time.”

Islamists rose to power during the Arab Spring in 2011, Mina said. Under the previous Mubarak regime, Islamists had been held in check. But the election of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood “allowed extremists to speak and act more freely. They were determined to make Egypt an Islamic state, he said.

“Christianity in Egypt was founded by St. Mark the Evangelist in the First Century,” Mina said. “Until 639 Egypt was a Christian country. But in 629 Moslems invaded Egypt and forced many to convert and killed many who refused.”

That had the effect of making Christianity a minority religion until today, he said. Christians comprise about 12 per cent of the population made up of Copts, Catholics and Protestants. “In recent years, we were always under attack,” the archbishop said.

Last spring, extremists attacked the Orthodox Coptic cathedral, St. Mark’s, which has the same significance to Coptic Christians as the Vatican has to Roman Catholics, Mina said.

But Morsi was removed from power after just one year, he said. Egyptians, both Christians and Moslems, joined together to speak in a peaceful revolution to remove the Morsi government. Thirty-three million people left their homes to “reject the Muslim Brotherhood and those who wished to make Egypt an extremist Muslim state.”

The Egyptian military removed Morsi from power on July 3, 2013, but since then “a wave of Islamist anger sparked by Morsi supporters” has resulted in almost 58 churches attacked and burned, as well as community centres, libraries and museums.

Extremists accused Christians of having overthrown Morsi instead of “accepting their deadly mistakes, pride and hatred,” Mina said.

“They also burned down more than 100 houses and 150 shops and offices owned by Christians, he said. “The burning and destruction occurred within only six hours of military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood camps.”

This past week, Coptic Christians were required to pay the jizya, a tax on non-Muslims. “If it is not paid, they have a choice, either convert to Islam or be killed,” Mina said.

The vast majority of Egyptians support the government and the police in the war on terrorists who are responsible for burning churches, Mina said.

“We have full faith in God’s intervention; he will navigate the Egyptian people to a better future,” he said. He displayed a series of photos of burning and destroyed churches for the assembly.

Mina said he appreciated the opportunity to address the assembly and “working together with all other churches to make Canada a land for Christ.”

He noted how the Coptic Pope Tawadros II had visited Pope Francis in the Vatican last May and that the for first time in history of Egypt a Coptic patriarch attended personally the enthronement of the Catholic patriarch of Egypt.