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Egyptian Christians Brace for (and Debate) New Round of Protests

(UPDATED) Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church says he supports "Egyptians 'taking back their stolen revolution' in a peaceful manner,"

Update (July 3): Protests continue to escalate in Cairo, where Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church has lent his support—via Twitter—to "Egyptians 'taking back their stolen revolution' in a peaceful manner," according to Egypt state media Al Ahram.

World Watch Monitor (WWM) also reports that Christians have joined the large-scale protests against the Muslim Brotherhood. According to WWM, Christians say "has hijacked what was supposed to be a new, pluralistic Egypt emerging from the January 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak."

The Egyptian military has vowed to intervene against protests today now that the deadline for a deal between President Mohamed Morsi and protesters has passed. However, the military first posted a statement to its Facebook page confirming that that it was meeting with "'religious, national, political and youth figures' and said that it would release a statement as soon as the talks ended," according to the New York Times.

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Update (July 1): The New York Times reports that protestors stormed the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo early this morning, following hours of protests in which millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand President Mohamed Morsi's resignation.

At least 16 people have been killed, according to the Times. However, NPR and BBC both report that the majority of demostrations have seemed peaceful.

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Frustrated Egyptians will take to the streets on Sunday, the one year anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi's inauguration. Dubbed the "Rebellion Campaign," the grassroots movement announced the collection of 15 million signatures to depose the president and demand early elections.

"The situation in Egypt is very serious," wrote Anglican Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt and North Africa. "I do not know where this situation will take us. I feel that Egypt is at the verge of violent demonstrations, another revolution, or civil war."

"Rebellion" organizers pledged their demonstrations will be non-violent, and Muslim Brotherhood leaders warned that violence—perhaps organized by supporters of the former regime—would undo the successes of the Egyptian revolution. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood leaders scheduled counter-demonstrations to coincide with "Rebellion," setting the stage for clashes between the two sides.

Furthermore, at a recent rally in support of the president, some of Morsi's Islamist allies urged followers to "defeat and destroy" the "infidels." Another predicted the protests would spark a wholly Islamic revolution. From the sidelines the army called for compromise, issuing ambiguous statements suggetsing that it will interfere if chaos erupts.

The Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, defended the right of Muslims to demonstrate peacefully. Similarly, Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church announced that Egypt's Coptic Christians are free to follow their consciences.

Dissatisfaction with a deteriorating economy, fuel shortages, and sectarian tension has grown among all Egyptians; even so, not all Christians support the protests. Former parliamentarian George Messiha opposes Morsi, but wishes him to complete his four-year term in order to protect democracy.

But the more common Christian sentiment lies with the protests.

"It is encouraging to see that Egyptians … have lost their fear of the government," said George Makeen of the Christian satellite channel SAT-7, which is broadcasting programs about the power of non-violent protest and prayer meetings for Egypt's future. "I hope the next step will be to embrace coexistence, but this will not happen before people stop being deceived by those who use religion to gain support."

CT previously has reported on Egypt and violence against Coptic Christians there, including a dispatch from Cairo on how Egyptian Christians were feeling on the first anniversary of their nation's revolution. Egypt's Copts are facing the future under an Islamist regime, including a hastily completed constitution that limits some previously guaranteed personal freedoms. Most recently, CT reported on the possible rise of Coptic evangelism in Libya and Sudan.

In addition, CT reported on the death of Pope Shenouda, the former leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and also on the election of Pope Tawadros last year.

Posted:June 28, 2013 at 9:58AM
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Egyptian Christians Brace for (and Debate) New Round of Protests