The Orthodox Church issued a statement on Wednesday denying it had used dogs to attack Coptic protesters. Over 120 Copts had surrounded the Clerical Council of Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Abbasseya on Monday to protest against the Orthodox Church’s refusal to grant them remarriage rights, and they filed a complaint the same day against Bishop Paul and cathedral security for allegedly attacking them using dogs
In the statement, the Church denied the incident and stressed the Clerical Council’s rejection of the demands which, it says, violate the Holy Bible’s teachings.
Protesters demanded the dismissal of Clerical Council head Bishop Paul and the restoration of the 1938 personal status law. In its original form, the law listed nine reasons for divorce, but an amendment in 2008 replaced those nine reasons with only two: adultery and religious conversion. Egyptian authorities do not recognize civil marriages without the consent of the Church, which also allows widows and widowers to remarry.
Protesters accused the Orthodox Church of toughening its position on divorce, and they accused Paul of favoritism by granting some people licenses to remarry and not others. They threatened to stage a sit-in inside the cathedral until their demands are met.
Michael Hakim, is among the protesters who allege that the cathedral’s security personnel unleashed dogs to attack demonstrators.
Hakim said the dogs are kept in a cage in front of the papal residence, and that security personnel cannot open the cage unless they receive direct orders from cathedral leaders.
Amir Moneer, another protester, said protesters are planning a massive demonstration in front of the cathedral followed by an open sit-in. He refused to disclose the date of the protest for fear that the church would attempt to prevent it.
Noting that former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly did not use dogs to attack demonstrators, Moneer described the way the church treated protesters as “inhuman and uncivilized.”
Translated from the Arabic Edition