President Mohamed Mursi was absent at the installation ceremony of the new Coptic Pope Tawadros II on Sunday to the dismay of Christians who fear being sidelined in the new Islamist-led Egypt.
Pope Tawadros II was installed at Cairo’s Abbasiya Cathedral in a ceremony attended by Christian leaders from several countries as well as Egyptian public figures.
A church source had told Reuters: “We don’t know why Mursi will not attend but it is a major event and nothing should stand in the way of him attending … Christians always had a strong feeling that he does not want to come.”
A presidential source said there had been no government announcement regarding Mursi’s plans.
Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, has repeatedly said he is the president of all Egyptians but Christians cite recent cases of religious intimidation by radical Islamists, such as a raid earlier this month on a party to promote interfaith harmony, as a sign of things to come.
Coptic rights activist and lawyer Peter el-Naggar said: “President Mursi’s decision not to attend comes as a surrender to pressures that some (ultra-orthodox Islamist) Salafi groups and others put on him.”
“The presidency has previously announced that the president will attend if he got invited, and he was invited,” he said.
Egypt’s Coptic minority is the Middle East’s largest Christian community.
Pope Tawadros II told Reuters earlier this month that a constitution being drafted by Egypt’s politicians must be inclusive and that the church would oppose any text that only addressed one part of the Muslim-majority nation.
Tawadros told Al Arabiya earlier this month that the security situation, not the dominance of Islamists, is what prompts Egyptians – Christians and Muslims alike – to leave the country, new.
Tawadros said since country’s 2011 revolution, the security situation compelled Egyptians to emigrate, rebuffing claims that Coptic Egyptians are leaving the country more than Muslims.
While Shariah (Islamic law) is not applicable to Christians in Egypt, Tawadros rejected article 2 in the constitution , which states that the “principles” of Islamic Sharia law are the main source of legislation.
He said article 2 will not grant Christians in Egypt their rights.
The marginalization of Christians is what has compelled his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, to take more of a political role.
But he is uninvolved in politics, he said, adding that the Church as an institution is spiritual and not political.