+Irini nem ehmot (Peace and grace)
Below is the unedited version of the Keraza article from Friday, December 17th. The article is very sad, and I hope that we all now realise the urgency and need for all of us to be praying for our Church and for our leaders at all time.
It is worth noting the boldness of this article, and that the Pope puts much at risk when allowing such things to appear in El Keraza (His Holiness is the editor). I am not sure if I have ever seen His Holiness this bold in the Keraza magazine. Let me emphasise that in Egypt - this is a very dangerous article. It is also clear, even from this article, how much our great father, Pope Shenouda, cares for us, and to what great lengths he really does go for us. May the Lord protect him and indeed keep him on his throne for many years and peaceful times.
Because some newspapers presented this issue in a way that did not reflect the whole truth but harmed us, it became necessary that we explain what happened with accuracy. We did not have the intention to talk in the first place because we leave our matters for God to handle, and He handles them always, and we always have faith in His solutionsGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
Three events coincided with each other and had an effect that showed in an obvious rage that reached the level of demonstrations gathered in St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo. These three events are:
1. Incidents of Assiout that caused pain: This pain showed sometimes, and was oppressed other times and finally exploded. And Wattani newspaper talked about it in the opening article on Sunday 28-11-2004 and inside the newspaper. It contained events about the conversion of girls and men from Christianity to Islam and it accused the President of the National Party of Assiout and his helpers of being the ones behind. Added to this the troubles that Copts face in terms of building churches and even in planting trees in the area of Dronka. And Fr. Abanoub Thabet the responsible in Assiout has submitted a report to HH the Pope about these events.
2. Events in Manqattin Village,Samallout:
HG the Bishop of Samallout presented a report about these events to HH the Pope. In this report HG mentioned that this village is inhabited by five thousand Christians and they have no place to pray in, to the extent that they hold their funeral prayers in the streets. And they bought a land since 1977 and they tried to build a church but their request was rejected because of security reasons. Then they were allowed to have a limited religious activity in a known Coptic Association like funeral prayers, wedding prayersand Sunday School but the Mayor of the village went against this.
Then serious harassments took place on Friday 3-12-2004 starting 6:30 PM. During which Dr. Reda Morgan's Pharmacy was robbed and then completely burnt, Mr. Thabet Qastour's car was burnt, Mr. Youssef Henein's house that is right next to the association was attacked and Mr. Zakareya Ghattas' Clothes Shop was robbed. Then some grocery shops owned by Mr. Ishaq Tadros and Mr.Girguis Azer were robbed then Dr.Osama Ghali's Pharmacy was robbed. All this happened and policemen did not make a move until all the damages were doneand afterwards they arrested some of the attackers.
3. The disappearance of the wife of the Priest of Abou El Mattamir and what was said about her conversion to Islam and marriage to a Muslim: And unfortunately this
provocative news was posted in Al Ahram Newspaper on Tuesday 7-12. And this is unreasonable because how can a woman marry two at the same time? For her to marry another man she must get a divorce from her husband first. And this requires a lawsuit in the Personal Status Court in which her Christian husband is first offered to convert to Islam and if he accepts she remain to be his wife. And if he refuses she gets a divorce. And how would they offer conversion to Islam to a Christian Priest?! This is a scandal that had its effect and bad impact all over everywhere. The most important thing is that this event was "the last straw". And demonstration started. And here we talk about how events went on.
The priest's wife disappearance problem happened in a contained place which is Abou El Mattamir. And it could have been resolved locally and finalized without letting the rest of the country hear about it. But it was not resolved although HE the Metropolitan of Behera met with HE the Governor who was very understanding. Then joint them the Local Governing Minister and the Security DepartmentGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª This was on Thursday 2-12. And when the subject was not resolved on the local level, everyone (Security and the Metropolitan) agreed to take this subject to Cairo. And two buses took off to Cairo with the knowledge of the security department then they were followed by a third bus. They faced obstacles in the way but they finally made itGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Objection to this situation was moved to Cairo. And news there spread on a much larger scale than it could in Abou El Mattamir. And this was on Friday 3-12.
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ On the dawn of Friday the great reporter Mr. Said Sonbol died and his family requested to hold his funeral in the Grand Cathedral in Abbaseya to honor him and so that HH the Pope can hold the prayers himself on the honorable deceased. And it is not true what was mentioned (to provoke) in one of the newspapers that the place changed to be the Cathedral and that the raging youth were brought from Abou El Mattamir on there funeral time! The funeral was held on Sunday 5-12 and demonstrations started on Friday. And Mr. Said Sonbol's family was the one who requested that the funeral be held in the Grand Cathedral.
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ After the funeral, HH the Pope received in his office Dr. Osama El Baz and Dr. Mustafa El Fiqi and explained to them the seriousness of the situation in that the priest's wife is not just an ordinary woman but she is considered as a spiritual mother to Christians in this church. And that what is being said about her conversion to Islam is too provocative to people. And that among the shouts there was the phrase: (They took the priest's wife and tomorrow they will take my wife). And how this indicates how insecure people feel about Some of the policemen in front of the Cathedral Doors their houses and wives. Also HH explained that this subject is not just an individual incident but it has to do with a woman who has a certain specialty that affects the public opinionGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂªAnd during this visit there was a phone call between HH the Pope and HE Dr. Nazif the Prime Minister. And HH the Pope said that there are problems that needs speed in resolving because slowness in resolving them might complicate them and spread them more. And when Dr. Osama El Baz went out of the meeting, he himself got to know the demonstrating youths thinking and opinion so that he takes a comprehensive picture about the situation and the public feelingsGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ What increased the tension was the huge police crowd surrounding the Cathedral. Some said that there were more than fifty Central Security Forces Cars and police forces among which there were high ranks to the extent that some Copts outside the Cathedral were worried about HH the Pope himself when they saw in the media the Cathedral surrounded by this huge number of policemen. And they called by telephone to assure HH safety.
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Policemen acted slowly in solving this issue and it was known that the priest's wife was at their possession. Not only did they not solve it at Abou El Mattamir and
not in Cairo before Mr. Said Sonbol's funeral nor after it. This caused the tension to go on without any interference to solve the problem.
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ And on Sun. 5/12, the Pope traveled to Syria to chair the previously scheduled Middle East Council of Churches which was convened in Damascus. And on his flight back on Tues. evening, HH read the News item published in Al Ahram Newspaper about a Priest's wife having converted to Islam and being married to a Muslim engineer!!
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Pope arrived at the Patriarchate at about 23:00 hrs. And started His communications to resolve the matter so that the Patriarchate would take a chance to sit with the Priest's wife as the Security Officials did for they had plenty of opportunities to contact her, the Islamic Influence did also had plenty of opportunities to contact her and also did her boss at workGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ President Mubarak's reaction was in a cooperative way to resolve the matter in spite of his travel outside the country. Communication were carried on with Dr. Zakareya Azmy till more than two hours after midnight to set a place where the Priest's wife will come for the Fathers to sit with herGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª security forces set a condition that it should not be at a Churchly area, nor a convent, nor a house of devotion, norGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª, norGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª. Finally, it was agreed upon a Villa affiliated to us which is surrounded by a yard and a fence with no objection of the presence of some devoted Sisters with her. She was to be brought to us on Wed. morning. Security forces investigated the place and agreed upon it.
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ And on the morning, HG Bishop Youanes contacted the Head of the National Security who said to him that she will be brought to us at that villa between 12:00 and 13:00 hrs, which didn't happen and they said that they sent her for medical examination and that she was on the way.
(ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬â€œ And the time 14:00 came, then it was 15:00 and 16:00 and nothing took place. The time of the Pope's weekly Sermon approached, it is a meeting which is attended by thousands of the congregation. How would the Pope confront the people? How would He answer the furious angry youth? Would He tell them that the problem had been resolved when it wasn't? Would He tell them that the Priest's wife had been brought to us while she hadn't? And what if some of the intruders sneaked into the meeting and cheered with hostility?! Finally, at 16:40 HH the Pope left the Papal residence heading to the Monastery. And while in His car after an hour of traveling, and at 17:40 He received a Tel. call that the woman reached the villa! So what was the point behind delaying things till after the Pope had traveled, as delaying things till Mr. Said Sonbol's Funeral took place?!
What is left to be said is that the villa to which the Priest's wife reached, was surrounded by almost ten Central Security Police Forces wagons, with a group of supreme Police Force Officers. It was then obvious to the whole neighborhood that there was something unusual going on. When the woman arrived, she was not completely sober for a period of two days, and then she started to talkGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
One of the Rev Priests injured by the Police attacks, his forehead was stitched and
bandaged. He is seen in the photo in pain. One of those who were injured also by the Police attacks with blood on his face.
After the Pope had left, the Police started attacking the gathering youth, they started beating them and provoking them to react accordinglyGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂªWe have the whole situation recorded on photographs and video tapes. They went up the roof of the Botroseya Church; they broke up the roof tiles and hit the gathering youth. One of the Rev Fathers had his forehead injured and had some stitches and another one was also injured with lots ofthe youths. They then stirred things up by causing injuries to some of them!!
They arrested some youths from the street and presented them to the prosecution Office. They were put into custody for 15 days subject to renewal. And as a major evidence that they are from the street is that the Police didn't enter the Patriarchate's yard to arrest anyone, as it is an inviolable area, so all the youth who are in custody were present in the street.
I will give an example: a Young man who came to attend the Pope's meeting as usual on every Wed. evening, he was told that the meeting was canceled as the Pope traveled, so he went out to return home, they then arrested him and became one of those who are in custody though he had nothing to do with the gathering of people. There are many more examples. Some of them are students in universities who have forthcoming exams, they are in custody and their educational life is at risk.
From our side, we reported to the Attorney General about our sons' injuries, and the damages which occurred at the Patriarchate, all that is illustrated with photos and documents. The Attorney General promised to set the students free. We are inquiring, why such raising up of events by Police forces takes place? Who benefits from all that? Is this a way to resolve a situation or to complicate it?! And what made things worse is some Newspapers which published news items in a way which agitates the situation and on the other hand affects the National Unity. Though those who wrote didn't investigate the matter from both sides, they didn't take into consideration the reactions and the influence of what they write on the public opinion and its consequencesGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
No one wrote about the incidences in Samalut in a way which makes the Copts feel that there is someone who feels what they are in and is affected by the assaults they were subject to and who take their feelings into considerationGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂªNo one wrote defending the incidences in Assuit or the complaints by Copts, only one of the University Professors in Assuit did so in the Watany Newspaper. We are brothers to you in this country, and we expected you'd be there beside us in our pain, not attackingGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª
As for the Priest's wife, she is still Christian. She uttered aloud the Orthodox Creed, she prayed with the Rev. Fathers and the devoted Sisters, she sang the Praise and prayed the Prime and finally she is back to us (look p. 6). That is because she was away from the Security force pressure and from the religious influence which is against her faith. We still have the incidences of setting fires, robbery and assaults in one of the villages in Samalut, in which law suits are filed seeking legal remedy. And we still have the incidences in Assuit and the sufferings of the Copts with no interference of anyoneto solve their problems. Anyway, the story hasn't finished yet, and we are waiting for resolutions.
Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.