CAIRO -- The history of Christianity in Egypt dates back to the visit of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to that land. (Matt. 2) It predates any claimed Islamic history in that land. To the Christians who live in that historic land, the history of the Christian Church is the history of Egypt.
The Evangelist Mark brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Egypt in 61 A.D. and planted the Church there, deep in the soil of that land of martyrs and saints. Egypt has a proud, long, unbroken and vital Christian heritage. We must pray for, stand with, and defend Christians in Egypt as hostility toward the Christian faith grows under the Morsi regime.
The majority of Christians in Egypt are Coptic Orthodox. The very word "Copt" comes from an early Greek name for Egypt. Christianity and Egypt have a long and holy history. In addition, there is a strong, ancient and devout community of Coptic Catholic Christians. The relationship between the two Churches is strong - and growing stronger under the persecution which they face together.
One of the reasons why the persistent and accelerating persecution of Christians in Egypt is so reprehensible is that their claim to live in this land is so strong, vital and clear. This is a real matter of social justice which is not being addressed by our Nation. This is an egregious violation of fundamental human rights.
Yet, who is standing up for these Christians in Egypt? Where is the President, the Secretary of State, the Obama administration in the face of the escalating hostility shown to Christians in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are we not reading about it or seeing reports on the main stream media?
We regularly cover the plight of our Coptic Orthodox and Catholic Christian brethren in Egypt. They are heroic witnesses to the Gospel. Their suffering and the shedding of their blood for the ancient faith should draw every Christian to our knees. It demands a response of support and solidarity from all who can help.
We have repeatedly urged our global readership to pray for Coptic Orthodox Christians and for Coptic Catholic Christians in Egypt in this critical hour. The presence of Coptic Christians in this ancient holy land is vital. Their presence precedes any Muslim claims to that nation. They are our brethren, joined to us in the bonds of our Baptismal communion.We have a special obligation to them and we will do everything we can to call attention to their plight..
On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Aid to the Church Need reported on the increasingly hostile treatment and environment our Coptic Christian brethren face under the current regime in Egypt led by the Muslim brotherhood. We present below the full article entitled Egypt - Constitution heralds dawn of 'Islamic caliphate'
***** Egypt's new constitution "prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate," according to the acting leader of Coptic Catholics, who is among three bishops to condemn the document as a fundamental attack on human rights.
Expressing their profound disappointment with the constitution signed into law on December 26, the bishops said only extremist Muslims' rights were guaranteed by the new document and that at particular risk were women, young people and religious minorities.
Bishop Kyrillos William, Administrator of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, said, "We were waiting for a constitution that represents the whole of Egypt, but instead we have one that only represents one group of people."
"We can see that the religious orientation of this constitution prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate."
Bishop William was among three Coptic Catholic bishops, including Joannes Zakaria of Luxor and Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza, who told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the constitution was a threat to civil liberties.
Bishop William said, "Everywhere in the constitution there are clauses saying everything should be in accordance with Islamic law."
"The president [Mohammed Morsi] promised to build a civic, modern and democratic state, but we do not think that this constitution is in any way in accordance with that."
Among the bishops, there was concern that the constitution would force non-Muslim women to wear Islamic headscarves and would legitimize the marriage of under-age girls.
The bishops said that, apparently in line with Shari'a law, the constitution permits women who are "sexually mature" to marry, which they said strongly implies acceptance of teenage marriages.
Bishop Zakaria said, "The Islamists want to apply Shari'a law especially with regard to women. It is very bad for women and very bad for non-Muslims in society."
Saying that the constitution is "not good news" and "does not take into consideration human rights for all," Bishop Aziz said the constitution implicitly sanctions child labor, only warning against forcing youngsters to do work that is too demanding for them.
Citing Article 219, Bishop William said, "The constitution not only outlines the principles of Shari'a, but describes in detail all of the values and opinions contained in the Shari'a. It will be terrible: everything will be interpreted according to Shari'a."
The bishops said that this heavy insistence on Shari'a undermined the credibility of Article 3 in the constitution which asserts the rights of Christians and Jews as well as Muslims.
Describing the constitution as the work of fundamentalist Muslims, Bishop Zakaria said, "It was already hard to get permission to repair a church in [former] President Mubarak's time, now it will be ever harder."
"But it will be much worse for Shiite Muslims, Baha'is, Buddhists and others who are not even recognized in the constitution."
Both Bishops William and Aziz accused the government of severe electoral malpractice in last month's constitution referendum and that with a voter turn-out of only 33 percent the President had no right to pass it into law.
Bishop William referred to reports that ballot slips rejecting the constitution had been found in toilets and that pro-constitution campaigners had bribed voters with oil, rice and other goods.
The referendum followed long-running controversy over the drafting of the constitution.
The Coptic Orthodox Church withdrew in April 2012 from the talks on the constitution in protest at the reportedly Islamist content proposed. Coptic Catholic and Protestant representatives quickly followed suit. Secular parties also later pulled out.
The bishops said that the parliamentary elections due later this year will be a vote of confidence on the new constitution and the government's handling of it.
Bishop William said: "The people should fight for their rights. The Church cannot speak in their name, but we can make people aware of the issues through our Justice and Peace committees."