EGYPT The Copts fear the “protection” of the army, which turns on NGOs

Fears of new attacks against churches in the celebrations at the end of the year and Orthodox Christmas. Muslim Brotherhood announced their commitment to protect Christians. Military raid against 17 foreign NGOs engaged in human rights. Blocked all funds and transactions. Caritas among the associations. Spokesman for the Catholic Church “The soldiers think only of themselves and protect their power.”

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Arab Spring is increasingly being betrayed by the authorities. About 10 months after the fall of the Mubarak regime, sources tell AsiaNews that there is an atmosphere of instability and fear in the country. In view of the end of year festivities and the Orthodox Christmas (January 6), the Coptic community fears new attacks against the churches, similar to those that occurred after the New Year of 2011 in Alexandria and in 2010 at Nag Hammadi (Luxor). Tensions have been increased by continuous military statements about the presence of unspecified external forces interested in wreaking havoc in the country before January 25, the anniversary of the Jasmine revolution.

In recent days, Kiryllos, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Nag Hammadi appealed to General Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), asking that safety be guaranteed during the celebrations. “I have received several bomb threats against my diocese – he says – and I asked the police to protect the community.” Yesterday, the SCAF assured maximum protection for Copts. Even the Muslim Brotherhood, winners of the first two rounds of parliamentary elections, have responded to the bishop’s call. In a statement posted yesterday on their site, they announced they will collaborate with the military in maintaining security around Coptic churches during the holiday.

On New Year’s Eve 2011 in Alexandria, a car bomb exploded during a Mass of the Coptic community, killing 21 people. Because of the attack clashes erupted between Christians and Muslims, but it turned out that the attack was orchestrated by the secret services of Habib el-Adly, the interior minister of the Mubarak government. On January 6, 2010, an armed commando opened fire on a group of faithful of the church of Saint John in Nag Hammadi, killing seven people. At the time the police had ignored repeated requests for protection of the Coptic communities. No policeman was on guard at the time of the attack.

Because of this the Christians have little confidence in the army, tied to the old regime. Fr. Greich Rafiq, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, said that “the army thinks only of its own interests and protecting its own power and not the values of the revolution.”

An example of this attitude is the recent military raids in the offices of 17 human rights organizations funded by the United States, European Union and other foreign countries. They are accused of not having permission to work in the country.

“The military – said the priest – have raided the offices seizing computers, documents and blocking all accounts. They are justified in arguing that these organizations were financing parties and movements threatening the stability of the country. ” Among the groups targeted are: Caritas, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Arab Center for Independence and Justice. According to Father Greich the army fears the future presidential elections of 25 January and dictatorial methods used to extinguish any form of dissent.

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