Christian Leaders in Egypt Meet With Clinton
17 Jul 2012 by Michael Gunn
CAIRO (CNS) — Egyptian Christian
representatives met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in Cairo, rejecting calls by other religious leaders to boycott discussions but stressing their determination to flex their newfound political voice.
Figures affiliated with the Catholic, Anglican and
Coptic Orthodox churches attended the two-hour meeting
at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo July 15.
I dont think it is a good idea to refuse a meeting. It is better to be in dialogue and have the opportunity to express our views, said Father Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian bishops conference. All the churches were present in a different way, although there was, for instance, no bishop from the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Clintons two-day visit to Egypt began July 14
with a landmark meeting with the countrys newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim
The once-banned Islamist organization has
become Egypts major political force in the wake of the early 2011 uprising that topped President Hosni Mubarak, feeding fears among Christians and liberals that it will use its electoral mandate to push through socially conservative reforms.
Recent meetings between U.S. and Brotherhood
officials have fed suspicions among the groups opponents of a deal, whereby Washington will respect Morsis mandate in exchange for maintaining Mubarak-era agreements such as Egypts 1979 peace deal with Israel.
Some clergy from the Coptic Orthodox and
Evangelical churches refused to meet Clinton, accusing
the U.S. of interference in Egypts internal affairs.
Bishop Marcus of the Coptic Orthodox Church
told the local news portal Ahram Online that their boycott
of the meeting showed their rejection of U.S. intervention in Egypts domestic affairs and the Americans strategy of favoring certain Egyptian political currents over others.
A number of Christian public figures signed a
statement making similar accusations.
However, Christian leaders who attended the
discussion with Clinton said that despite their issues with U.S. policy, establishing dialogue was better than not.
Among the attendees were Youssef Sidhom,
editor of Watani, a Christian weekly newspaper, and
member of the Coptic Orthodox Church's lay council; and
Anglican Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of the Diocese of
Discussions focused on popular fears of political
Islamism and the determination of Egypts Christians to face the issue on their own terms.
We told (Clinton) that Christians do not want to
leave their country, and that we do not want special help
from the U.S., Father Rafic told Catholic News Service. Christians proved in the presidential and parliamentary elections that they are a political force that can change the political outcome.
We said this showed that we dont need the
support of a dictator (like Mubarak). We can participate in
politics and do things for ourselves, he said.
Christians make up around 10 percent of Egypts
estimated population of 84 million.
Tags: Middle East Christians Egypt Arab Spring Copts U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton