Catholic leader in Egypt says government 'doesn't give a damn'

Egypt’s caretaker military government “doesn’t give a damn” about the suffering of the country’s Christian minority, according to a spokesperson for the Greek Melkite Catholic church in Egypt, who says local Christians are calling upon the administration of Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to resign.

Fr. Rafic Greiche made the remarks Monday (Oct. 10) in an English-language interview with Vatican Radio.

tGreiche said the violence that erupted yesterday in the Maspero section of Cairo, where Christians had gathered to protest a church burning in Aswan on Sept. 30, marks the most serious outbreak since the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak, but it’s hardly the first such episode.

t“This is the third time after the revolution, in the space of nine months” that Christians have been targeted, Greiche said.

tAccording to media reports, the violence in Cairo yesterday produced somewhere between 25 and 35 deaths and left hundreds more injured. Most of the fatalities apparently came after the Egyptian army opted to use force to suppress the protests.

tGreiche said the army’s role marks a significant deterioration in the security situation for the Christian minority in Egypt, which is conventionally estimated at ten percent of the population.

We say: Charlottesville reveals the weeping wound of racism. What do we, the American Catholic faith community, do next? Read the editorial.

“At the time of the old regime, of Mubarak, there were also churches being burned and so on,” he said, “but the security services always used to take care of us. Now, even the government does not give a damn about what is happening.”

Greiche outlined three demands that Egyptian Christians are presenting to the country’s interim authorities, ahead of national elections scheduled for late November.

“First of all, the government of [Prime Minister Essam Sharaf] has to leave,” he said.

In remarks to the Egyptian media, Sharaf reportedly blamed Sunday’s violence on “invisible hands” seeking to divide the country. Many Egyptian Christians see that as a deflection of responsibility, reminiscent of the Mubarak era when Muslim-Christian tensions were routinely blamed on outside agitators rather than the product of legitimate Christian grievances.

Grieche also pointed to two religious freedom demands.

“The second thing is that the law permitting the construction of churches and mosques has to be implemented. It was promised by this government four months ago, and it has not been done. The law has to be implemented at all levels,” he said.

“Third, we are asking for another law, one against discrimination. In Egypt, there is discrimination between Muslims and Christians. We ask that such a law be implemented for at least ten years, until society gets used to not discriminating against one another.”

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.