New Egyptian constitution gives Christians hopecomment (0)
January 30, 2014
Egyptian voters have approved a new constitution, leaving Christians a bit more hopeful, though it does not secure basic rights for religious minorities.
One Egyptian Christian leader said the difference in attitudes he observed as he waited in line to vote was “a great tendency to celebrate a new Egypt that returned us back from the iron grip of radical Muslims,” Mission Network News reported.
The country’s new constitution was approved by 98.1 percent of the 38.6 percent of eligible voters who turned out for a two-day referendum in mid-January.
Christians are expected to fare slightly better under the new constitution compared to the one drafted during the one-year presidency of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was removed from office July 2013.
Specifically the blasphemy statute that prohibited the “insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets,” which was used against Christians, has been removed, according to Morning Star News.
Still the new constitution renders Christians and other non-Muslims second-class citizens and establishes Islam as the state religion and sharia (Islamic law) as the “principle source of legislation” for Egypt.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised concerns Jan. 18 about the fairness of the vote, given that it was nearly unanimous. The New York Times said Kerry mentioned the “polarized political environment,” the absence of an inclusive drafting process or public debate before the vote as well as the arrests of those who campaigned against it.
“Democracy is more than any one referendum or election. It is about equal rights and protections under the law for all Egyptians, regardless of their gender, faith, ethnicity or political affiliation,” Kerry said.
Christians in Egypt “seem lined up behind the constitution,” Morning Star News noted as the vote was underway. “It is hard to find a Copt [member of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Egypt’s largest Christian minority] who says they will vote against it, even if they don’t support it. One reason for this, human rights activists said, is the perception that the country will otherwise continue its descent into chaos or revert to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood or hardline Salafis.”
David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, visited Egypt ahead of the referendum. “The people are generally excited about a chance for some stabilization,” he said.
Egypt recently declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. However, Curry noted that some are concerned the Muslim Brotherhood will not fade from power without a fight.
As believers worldwide pray for peace in Egypt, Curry requested specific prayer for Christians in the southern part of the nation, outside Cairo. “There are some very radical forces in the more rural areas that make it very dangerous for Christians.”
Attacks on Christians in 2013 led to Egypt rising to No. 22 on Open Doors’ 2014 World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 countries where persecution is most severe.