Presidential frontrunners offer symbolic support for Egypt's Copts on Easter

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 24 Apr 2011

Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, the twin front-runners in Egypt's upcoming presidential election, join in giving symbolic support for Egypt's Christians on Easter

Easter Mass

It was with smiles and handshakes that presidential hopeful Amr Moussa, who is nearing the end of his second term as Arab League secretary-general, entered Qasr Al-Doubara Evangelical Church this morning to join worshipers in celebrating Easter Sunday. Moussa joined the joyful Anglican prayers for about half an hour.

Before arriving at the church, Moussa had joined top state officials and political figures in visiting the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch at the Abbasiya Coptic Cathedral to wish the head of the Coptic Church and its devotees a happy Easter.

Both Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, the other prominent presidential hopeful, sat in the first row of the Coptic Cathedral during Saturday evening’s Easter Mass. The celebration was also attended by top military brass whom Pope Shenouda asked worshipers to make welcome.

Shenouda, who in the early days of the January 25 Revolution had spoken in support of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, declined from asking the followers of the Coptic Church to welcome either Moussa or ElBaradei. He simply thanked "all brothers and sisters who came to join Easter festivities."

"I think Pope Shenouda is being very careful; he does not wish to mark that the church is supporting this or that candidate," said one of those in attendance.

According to the same source, the Coptic patriarch has not made up his mind on whom the Coptic Church would support and "it is unlikely that the church would announce support for any particular candidate because we have all seen that the inclination of the Church towards a certain political position does not help promote this position."

The widely held assumption during the build up to last month’s referendum on constitutional amendments that the Coptic Church favoured a 'no' vote started a vehement Islamist campaign to vote 'yes' on the basis that Muslims should not vote with the Church.

On the day of the referendum, Islamists were seen pressuring voters, with some holding the Quran with a ‘yes’ note attached to it.

At both churches, those who spoke to Ahram Online were unsure who to vote for in the upcoming presidential elections. "I am not sure; we just want someone who would treat us with justice as citizens," said Monica at the Coptic Catherdral.

Monica was expressing a considered and genuine concern about the mood of Islamisation that she fears might be coming. As such, she is hoping for is a president "any president" who would make sure that the rise of the tide of political Islam does not come at the expense of the basic rights of Copts.

At the Anglican Church, however, Ramy was more upfront on the matter. "I will vote for the candidate who has a clear programme on a wide range of national issues, including national unity and equality among all Egyptians," he said. He added that so far both Moussa and ElBaradei fit this description.

Both potential candidates have expressed publicly their support for equal citizenship. For many in the Abbassiya Cathedral and Qasr Al-Dubara Church, the fact that the two men made a point of joining the Easter celebrations is a positive sign.

Easter, the day where Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, is not exactly compatible with the Islamic creed that declines to acknowledge that Christ was crucified in the first place – despite the fact that Muslims believe that Jesus rose to heaven.

In the recent past, senior figures from the Mubarak regime have normally attended the uncontroversial Christmas Mass.

"But this is not the point for us; as far as we are concerned this is a feast for Egyptian Christians and we join their happiness without getting into a debate over the details of the creed of both Islam and Christianity," said Nadia, a resident of Qasr Al-Dubara’s Garden City neighbourhood, as she entered the church’s hall.

While fixing her headscarf, Nadia said that for her this is the first time to attend church to express holiday wishes. "I was at Tahrir Square and I was really touched by what I saw there of the closeness between Muslims and Christians; in Tahrir we were all Egyptians and this is the way we should be," she said.

Nadia is determined to be present at church "at every feast." For her, this is the "right way" to defy "all evil calls for division between Muslims and Christians."

The presence of Muslim neighbours and public figures, including prominent journalist Hamdi Qandil and former minister Mervat Talawi, at Qasr Al-Dubara Church was warmly welcomed by worshipers.

"We are very happy really to see these people coming to join us. It is a good sign, a healthy sign because at the end of the day we are all Egyptians," said Mary after the Easter service.

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