Egypt’s Coptic Christian Pope, Tawadros II, expressed unprecedented sharp criticism of the country’s Islamist government and of the “national dialogue” promoted by President Mohamed Morsi.
“We must and will actively take part in any national dialogue in which we see a benefit for the nation,” Tawadros told the Associated Press. “But when we find that a dialogue ends before it starts and none of its results are implemented then we realize that it is not in the interest of the nation.”
A broad coalition of Christians and secular liberals has opposed Morsi’s overtures and accuse him of establishing an Islamic-style dictatorship. Violent protests have erupted recently as a result.
Pope Tawadros II also asserted Coptic rights and dismissed his group’s status as a minority.
“We are a part of the soil of this nation and an extension of the pharaohs and their age before Christ. Yes, we are a minority in the numerical sense, but we are not a minority when it comes to value, history, interaction and love for our nation,” he said.
Tawadros – who was elevated to the papacy in late 2012 – has taken a usually vocal political stance compared to his long-time predecessor, Pope Shenouda III. His forceful statements come at a time when many Coptic Christians are fearful of the increasing Islamic extremism in the new government.
Meanwhile, two Coptic Christians were sentenced to three years in prison for stealing weapons for soldiers during a Christian-led protest against persecution by the former interim military government, the New York Times reported.
A video of the protest showed military vehicles and soldiers firing into the mainly Christian crowd. More than 27 people died in the October 2011 incident, mostly Coptic Christians.