By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Although he was once regarded as a bulwark against the persecution of Christians by the Muslim majority in Egypt, embattled President Hosni Mubarak’s inability to protect them from recent spates of violence has caused many Christians to join with Muslims in calling for his resignation.
Reuters is reporting that Christians are continuing to demonstrate alongside an estimated one million Egyptians who have poured into the streets. Many in the Coptic population say the desire to see an end to Mubarak’s 30 year reign trumps whatever fears they have about who might succeed him.
“After (the Alexandria) bombing the Copts for the first time started to demonstrate against Mubarak,” said Rafik, a 33 year old dentist who was among the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “He was telling us that ‘When I’m in power, you’re safe.’ Well, obviously, when he’s in power, we’re not safe.”
Violence sometimes flares up in this county of 80 million people where only 10 percent of the population is Christian. These clashes usually involve land disputes, family vendettas, interfaith marriages, and the usual discrimination Christians suffer by a Muslim majority that prevents them from getting government jobs and building churches.
Even though the church’s head, Pope Shenouda, has come out in support of Mubarak, many of his flock are not willing to stand with him.
“We came here to show that every Egyptian should be here and wants to be here. There is no difference between Christians and Muslims,” said Mina Shehata, a Christian from Nagaa Hamady, the site of a drive-by shooting that killed six Copts in early 2010.
“We do not want Mubarak. The people here do not want him. Muslims and Christians do not want him,” said Christian Mariam Eissa Nasif, 25.
However, many Copts admit they’re worried that radical Islamist groups could gain more influence after Mubarak’s departure and make life even more difficult for them.
“We’ve lived all our lives with the thought that Hosni Mubarak is protecting us as Christians, and if he goes we’re going to be repressed,” Salama, a 36-year-old information technology worker, told Reuters.
“I have fears that they (the Brotherhood) come to power, however, I’m still very happy about what’s happening and I will still be very happy that Mubarak leaves, at any price,” said a 29 year old marketing worker who did want her name disclosed.
Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom and the oldest of three brothers from an influential Christian family, told Reuters he did not expect the Muslim Brotherhood to have much influence in any new government.
“This revolution has been mainly run by the secular, young, educated Egyptians,” he said.
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