Egypt - Senior Bishop Condemns Crackdown

Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina accused Egypt’s military of shooting innocent people and using violence in response to peaceful protests.

The Coptic Catholic Bishop of Giza, a major city outside Cairo, said that Christians and Muslims were united in the capital’s Tahrir Square in defense of human rights.

Bishop Aziz said, “The authorities have no right to shoot peaceful people.”

“Using violence against peaceful people is not acceptable. The authorities must explain their actions.”

The bishop’s comments, made Tuesday, November 22nd, in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), came after reports that at least 26 people had died, with hundreds injured after three days of clashes between protestors and security forces.

Thousands have taken to the streets concerned that the military-led administration that took over from President Hosni Mubarak in February will not leave power after elections due to begin next week.

Speaking from Egypt, Bishop Aziz told ACN, “The army has not learned the lesson that, if you shoot people they will react.”

“The more you attack them, the more they will react.”

He defended the protestors, saying, “People have a right to speak out in this way. The only way they can make their point is by demonstrating.”

“The rights of the people need to be defended. By making demonstrations, they are not making a political statement, they are calling for justice.”

He added, “The young people, who began the revolution [that led to Mubarak’s downfall], no longer trust people in authority, especially the military. They were full of hope when the revolution began but now no longer.”

Relations between the Catholic Church and the regime hit a new low last month after senior clergy accused the government of being implicated in attacks on Christian-led demonstrators in Cairo which left 25 people dead and hundreds injured.

The bishop said the regime had defied calls by protestors to free up restrictions on Christian practice, especially draconian legislation on building churches.

In September the European Union of Human Rights Organizations published a report claiming that nearly 100,000 Christians in Egypt had emigrated since the fall of President Mubarak.

Bishop Aziz said that many Muslims joined Christians in opposing the regime’s style of government.

He said, “Christians and Muslims are altogether in Tahrir Square now. They have the same desire for a new future.”

Meantime, the military leadership, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), is holding talks with political leaders a day after the military-appointed civilian cabinet offered its resignation.

Hard-line religious movement the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Equality party is widely seen as a front-runner in the elections, is also taking part in the talks.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Scaf, is expected to make a statement later.

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