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Egypt’s Coptic church mourns loss amidst concerns

By March 22, 2012

Egypt (MNN) — Mourners packed Cairo's
main cathedral for the March 20 funeral of the leader of Egypt's Coptic Church,
Pope Shenouda III.

He led the church during a time where
Egypt was becoming increasingly Islamist, and Copts were beginning to come under
attack in the majority Muslim nation. SAT-7 Egypt director, Farid Samir, explains, "For Christians, he
was like their political representation. That was not a good thing that Christians
were living behind the walls of the church, but that was the system because of the
oppression. You can say the Christians felt that the church [was] their
place. (Sic) "

The loss of Shenouda's influence at a
time when upheaval is a regular part of the landscape hasn't been reassuring,
Samir says. "All Christians feel that we lost an important leader and pioneer. He's been there 41 years as a Pope. He dealt
with all kinds of situations, so he was like a pioneer in that area. Lots of Christians now feel like they're
orphans."

Muslims and Christians came together in a common cause in the 2011
revolution that eventually ousted President Hosni Mubarak. A civilian transition government supervised by
the Supreme Military Council leads the transition now. Under it, there is an increasingly
anti-Christian attitude and simultaneous sympathy toward the Muslim
Brotherhood.

SAT-7 is a Christian satellite
television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Samir says with all
the uncertainty, "They (the Christians) feel their loss, especially at this time. They don't
know who the coming president is. Do we have an Islamic state? Do we have a
liberal state? They're not sure what's happening, so there's a lot of
uncertainty which makes it worse."

The
production team adjusted their programming to address the current events. "SAT-7
tried to give hope and tried to share the emotions of the people, but also to
present the hope of Christ." Mock
goes on to say that this week, they've focused on the emerging worries without
Shenouda III. "There is another episode
called 'Salt of the Earth.' It's a talk show for current affairs, and it discusses
the future of Christians in Egypt, how to deal with the new government, how to
deal with the political situation."

Although Egypt has seen less of the
religious violence that has prompted members of ancient Christian communities
to migrate from Iraq and other Arab countries, the country ranks 15th on the 2012
Open Doors World Watch List. 

There have been increasing reports of Salafi
Muslims intimidating local Christians by blocking entrances to churches,
demanding that church buildings be moved outside communities, or that church
repairs be forbidden.

However, Shenouda was making headway at least in opening dialogue with the
Muslim Brotherhood. Samir says, "The
good thing that was happening was the Muslim Brotherhood went and visited him
lately to show that they want to make a bridge between Muslims and Christians
or between the government and Christians."

Shenouda's loss
is a blow to some, but what he started can be continued. Samir says, "The good thing that was happening
was the Muslim Brotherhood went and visited him lately to show that they want
to make a bridge between Muslims and Christians or between the government and Christians."

The selection
process for a new pope could take months. An interim leader will be selected this week, and
nominations for papal candidates will begin then. After two rounds of voting by the Supreme
Council of Bishops, three candidates names will be put on slips of paper,
placed in a jar, and a child will select one of the names.

Samir says
until there is a new Pope, many feel vulnerable during a time of extreme change
in Egypt. "Pray for us at SAT-7 to
tackle issues that Christians suffer from, to start real dialogue between Christians
and Muslims, to start a real dialogue about politics, and at the same time, to
have hope in Christ."

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