Cairo, Egypt (CNA) — Protesters flooded the streets of Cairo on Feb. 4, aiming to make the tenth day of Egypt’s popular uprising into the “day of departure” for President Hosni Mubarak. As the U.S. urges Mubarak to step down, Egyptian Christians worry that radical Islamic ideology may fill a void left by his absence.
Issam Bishara, Vice President for Pontifical Mission activities in Egypt, detailed the concerns of Coptic Orthodox and Catholic Christians in a Feb. 3 report provided to CNA by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
“Though some of the primary opposition leaders in this revolt appear to be modern secular reformers, church leaders believe the main engine fueling and organizing the demonstrators is the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bishara wrote. “They fear that the brotherhood intends to seize power through future elections, compromising all patriotic and ideological parties participating in the protests.”
The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, has maintained his support for the Mubarak regime, and urged Coptic Orthodox Christians not to join the street protests. The Coptic Orthodox patriarch, whose church claims 95 percent of Egypt’s Christians, has instead advocated a program of internal reforms.
So far, most of the demonstrators opposing President Mubarak have kept religion out of the picture. However, the prominent role of the Muslim Brotherhood — considered to be the best-organized opposition to Mubarak’s National Democratic Party — is causing concern among Egyptian Christians.
The group’s stated aim is to make Islam the “sole reference point” for Egypt’s government and society.
“Coptic Christians — as well as Egypt’s Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Latin, Maronite and Melkite Greek Catholics — all fear a fate similar to that of Iraq’s Christians,” Bishara stated, recalling how a power vacuum in that country “left its minorities, especially the Christians, marginalized and exposed to the terror of Islamic extremists and criminals.”