Egyptian Prelate Optimistic About New President

Coptic Catholic Bishop Expresses Hope of Christian-Muslim Peace

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LUXOR, Egypt, JUNE 25, 2012 ( Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt, said he and fellow Copts were optimistic after Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Mursi’s post-election victory speech Sunday, when he said he wanted to reach out to Christians as well as Muslims.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Zakaria said the Muslim Brotherhood candidate’s success was a cause for hope in spite of many Christians’ concerns that the party’s apparent openness masks an Islamist and intolerant policy agenda. The bishop said that many people in Luxor had voted for opposition candidate Ahmed Shafiq in the June run-off elections but were reassured by Mursi’s speech Sunday, which suggested a positive approach to tourism, to the local economy. “The people of Luxor are so afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will stop tourism but they are now hoping that what Mr. Mursi said in his speech will be true,” he said.

Bishop Zakaria highlighted reports that Mursi was considering choosing a Copt for the post of vice president and had spoken in support of tourism and women’s rights. Saying he was “optimistic,” Bishop Zakaria added: “We hope he will honour his promises made in his speech after he was announced as President.”

The bishop referred to an extract in Mursi’s speech where he said: “Egypt is for all Egyptians; all of us are equals in terms of rights. All of us also have duties towards this homeland. As for myself, I don’t have rights. I only have duties… We Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, are advocates of civilization and construction.”

Commenting on the speech, Bishop Zakaria said: “It is true that in the past the Muslim Brotherhood have not lived up to their promises. When you are not in power, you can say what you want but they now have the big responsibility of government, it is very different.”

“Once people listened to Mr. Mursi’s speech, they were not worried. Things are calmer. The people are waiting to see what he can do in the future.”


Turning to other key factors, Bishop Zakaria said tackling Egypt’s huge economic problems was a top priority for the new president. He said that political turmoil had devastated Luxor’s local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism, and that unemployment was now at almost 50 percent.

The bishop said the new president needed to build a political consensus in order to tackle economic problems. “We hope he will create a new government involving all the parties, not just the Muslim Brotherhood. We are praying for this,” he said. After careful and comprehensive monitoring of election news reports, he was hopeful that the Muslim Brotherhood would not pursue an Islamist agenda.

He argued that the Mursi’s very narrow majority of 51.73 percent meant he would not wish to alienate the many who voted for Shafiq, the one-time prime Minister under Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president whose 30-year presidency ended after mass protests in Egypt. 

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