“Fears and concerns have grown”

Despite Egypt's democratization, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Damian sees the situation of the Christian minority with concern. The head of the 6.000 Copts in Germany calls for greater participation in reforms.

 

CBA: Bishop, what is the situation of Coptic Christians now after the peaceful revolution in Egypt?

Damian: Fears and concerns have grown after attacks on them in recent weeks. Whether this was a result of the chaotic conditions, planned actions by the Islamists or attacks by the army is an open question. We hope that the situation will change so that hope will prevail and the Copts can live as protected citizens in their homeland with dignity and in freedom.

CBA: What is behind the acts of violence?

Damian: They are a result of ideology and abuse of power.
So far they have had three causes: the old regime, religious attitudes and social problems. We thought the situation might improve with the change of government. But at the moment, the religious and social factors and the remnants of the old regime are still interacting so intensely that the violence against the Copts cannot be ignored.

CBA: What are the goals of their enemies?

Damian: They want to use coercion to Islamize the people and establish a God-state.

CBA: What can be done about it from abroad?

Damian: It is necessary to use clear language. Just as Muslims can flourish in this country, it must also be possible for Copts to live in their homeland with dignity and not as inferior human beings.

CBA: What role do Christians play in social change?

Damian: Young Copts sparked the revolution. It started when Egyptian state security destroyed a Coptic community center because it was to be converted into a church. Four people were killed and 140 arrested in the process. After that and the attack on a church on New Year's night in Alexandria that left 23 dead, Copts took to the streets. Many Muslim sympathizers also joined in. After the revolution in Tunisia, things really took off.

CBA: Can Christians help build the new Egypt?

Damian: They have to, because they are part of it. At the moment, they are only marginally included, but they make up as much as 20 percent of the population. This cannot be swept under the carpet, their rights cannot be ignored.

 

The interview was conducted by Gregor Krumpholz.

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