note: This article was published on Lapido Media. The version below contains a few more quotes which did not make the final edit.
Young Coptic activists disrupted Christmas mass in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo on January 7, shouting slogans against the military council.
Around ten individuals coordinated to erupt the moment Pope Shenouda, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, extended Christmas greetings to military members, as captured on YouTube.
Among these was Gen. Hamdy Badeen, head of the military police. Many activists hold him responsible for the deaths of 27 people during a mostly Coptic protest at Maspero in October.
The pope has faced challenges leading the church during the revolution. Even so, he welcomed those whom many activists consider at odds with the Copts. This represents not only the military council, but also the Muslim Brotherhood, reported previously by Lapido Media.
Ramy Kamel organized the Christmas protest in the cathedral – a rarity in the hierarchical church where the holiness of the pope is widely respected.
‘It has not yet been three months since Maspero and they invite the military council?’ Kamel stated.
Sameh Saad of the Maspero Youth Union echoed this dismay.
‘We are very angry because the Pope invited them. Nothing has happened to hold anyone in the military accountable since Maspero, and we do not want to greet them.’
‘Still, we will be silent because we love the pope.’
Kamel had been a leading member of the Maspero Youth Union, but resigned due to silence like this.
‘The organization was becoming content simply to issue statements, but people need to be awoken into action.’
Nevertheless, if not for his mother, Kamel would have passed the holiday at home. He states church security threatened him with attack dogs if he led a demonstration inside the cathedral.
Karima Salama is Kamel’s mother. ‘I pushed him to go. The common Copts here in our neighborhood are outraged, so how could my son sit at home doing nothing?
‘We must not say the pope makes mistakes but here he did.
‘The church should welcome all but the pope should not have invited them.’
Bishop Bisenti emphasizes such open reception in defense of the pope.
‘The pope expresses his love to welcome all, and if they want to come they are invited as brothers.
‘Those who reject this are looking from the point of view of punishment for what happened in Maspero, but we look from the point of view of love.
‘The question of punishment is left to the judge and we will accept this.’
The military council has stated lower ranking officers are being investigated concerning the tragedy at Maspero. Official charges, however, have only been leveled against activists.
A week before Christmas, Coptic confusion increased over the church’s reluctance to demand military accountability. Pope Shenouda stated peace and security prevailed in Egypt due to the military council, as reported in the local press.
Amir Bushra, another member of the Maspero Youth Union, was among those affected by Kamel’s protest.
‘I personally apologize to Ramy Kamel because I was opposed to doing anything in the cathedral, but realized I was mistaken when I saw Pope Shenouda with Gen. Hamdy Badeen.
‘The church should take pride in her sons, because their chants are the chants of all who lost loved ones at Maspero.’
A subsequent blow of protest was issued a week later at mass by Fr Yuhanna Fuad, priest of the Virgin Mary Church in Old Cairo, and presented on YouTube. He was present at the cathedral on Christmas.
‘Hamdy Badeen greeted me. I apologize I kissed him and shook his hand and was pictured with him. He arranged this to improve his image.
‘You have to know that your priest is honest and has to say the truth. These people are unjust. They are liars and thieves, holding on to power.’
Samir Morcos is a respected writer and researcher in Coptic Church affairs. He states, ‘This is a new dynamic we must accept after January 25, especially among the young people.
So it must be noted that while Bishop Musa [bishop of youth affairs] justified the presence of the military council, he did not condemn the youth.’
Samir Zaki, who works under Bishop Musa as the general secretary for encouraging civic participation, makes clear this perspective.
‘The system works that security and VIPs always come to Christmas, and we issue invitations to allow them through the doors of the cathedral. The military council stated they are coming to wish Christmas greetings. Should we not say thank you?’
As concerns the demonstrating youth, Zaki states, ‘The pope put forward the official church position, but they were representing their personal opinion. No one has done anything to them.’
Samir Morcos believes no one knows exactly the extent of Coptic frustration with the church, in its accommodation to the military council.
It is clear, however, there is an undercurrent of revolutionary sympathy. Ramy Kamel wants it to transform the church.
‘No one should be able to represent the position of the church absolutely, no matter who he is.’
For many, this itself is a revolutionary idea.
Please read the published article on Lapido Media.
- Clashes, Deaths at Coptic Protest in Maspero – my day after, first hand account
- Video Analysis of Maspero – examining YouTube footage to determine events
- In Aftermath of Maspero, a Muslim Holds a Cross – a very unique picture