Coptic Pope Shenouda III (Photo: AP)
Egypt’s Coptic patriarch, Pope Shenouda, along with seven leaders in the Coptic Church, met today with a delegation of the ruling military council. The meeting comes as a result of the deaths of at least 25 protesters at an anti-discrimination, anti-sectarian march on Sunday that ended at Maspero, Egypt's state TV building. The protesters were attacked along their march and at Maspero, allegedly by security forces themselves.
The meeting took place in the Abbassiya Cathedral, the headquarters of the Coptic Church.
The two sides discussed measures needed to stop further sectarian clashes from occuring, which inspired the mostly Coptic march in the first place after a church was destroyed by Muslims in Aswan on 30 September, with no government intervention.
Among the measures to curb discrimination is the issuing of building and/or renovation licenses to various churches across the country, increasing the punishment for religious discrimination and issuing a new unified Personal Status Law (Egyptians are currently obligated to state their religion on ID's and marriage laws differ between Muslims and Christians).
On point, the controversial unified code for houses of worship, which is due to be issued soon and is expected to ease restrictions on the building of churches in the future, was a top subject.
Ensuring proportionate representation of Copts in the next People’s Assembly and Shura Council (upper house and parliament) was also discussed, seeing as how elections are slated for around the corner in November.
One of the Coptic leaders who attended the meeting, Bishop Younas, said that the church played a video of the Maspero clashes to the military delegation, which left them “shocked.”
“We also told them about the young Copts who have been detained since the clashes,” Bishop Younas said, who added that delegation members promised to immediately release all the Coptic youth, as long as there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the youth.