Egyptians will vote on a new constitution tomorrow.
Newly enthroned Pope Tawadros II has so far sought to keep the church disentangled from politics, though he is encouraging his flock to “go and vote.”
Coptic Christians, who make up only 10 percent of the Egyptian population, are understandably fearful the outcome. The new pro-Islamist government has little regard for religious freedoms, and opposition groups believe the new constitution will further enshrine discriminatory policies.
Just Wednesday an Egyptian court sentenced Coptic blogger Alber Saber to three years in prison for sharing a video on Facebook authorities deemed blasphemous. Saber, whose family is Christian, professes to be an atheist.
The repression of Christians and other minorities has been widespread and constant. Another Copt, Bishoy Kameel, received a prison sentence of six years for “insulting Islam and defaming President [Mohammed] Morsi on his Facebook page.”
An atmosphere of hatred and disdain has grown since the ouster of the Mubarak government and the election of Islamist President Morsi. Though Copts were among the early supporters of the 2011 uprising, the radical Muslim Brotherhood has become emboldened and empowered in the revolution’s wake, while the situation of Christians has worsened dramatically.
An untold number of Egyptians have attempted to leave the country. Unofficial figures are as high as 100,000, many of them Copts.
“This revolution did not do anything for us,” said one Coptic woman, Hanna Nabi Ayub. “There is still no respect for our rights and there is more freedom for extremists. I want to be treated like a normal citizen and not neglected because of my name and my religion.”
Tawadros has said that the primary job of the church is to pray for Egypt. That is likely the only thing that can help.
Lord, have mercy.