Coptic Leaders Express Optimism about Egypt's Future

Leaders of Egypt's Coptic Church have spoken positively about the prospects for the country following the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak.

In a statement this week, Coptic leader Pope Shenouda III praised the youth of Egypt for their efforts to change the political order, acknowledging that they had "shed their blood for the country."

Pope Shenouda spoke of the need for Egypt to become a civil democratic country that does not uphold one particular religion, and called for "clear and transparent" elections.

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Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria, spoke of a "historic opportunity" for the people of Egypt and expressed his hopes for the implementation of a democratic system.

He told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: "Moving towards a civil, democratic government, rather than a religious or a military one, has been our hope for a long time – it has been a dream."

He admitted that it would "take time" to solve all of the "huge" problems facing the country, including raising living standards for the people.

While some human rights groups have raised concerns over the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in shaping Egypt's new political order, Patriarch Naguib suggested the church could be open to some form of involvement for the group.

He told CAN: "If the Muslim Brothers enter into the framework of a civil society as a party with a very clear program, they are as welcome as any other political party.

"However, if they want to transform Egypt into a religious country with Shari'a law then I think that not only the Christians but more than half the population will not accept that."

Bishop Daniel, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Sydney, Australia, said Copts were hopeful of a future Egypt in which Christians could live together with Muslims.

Despite an increasing number of deadly attacks on churches and Christians in recent years, Bishop Daniel noted that there had been no attacks on Christians during the weeks of mass demonstrations.

He said: "We love each other as Muslims and Christians. Whoever is going to govern Egypt we are going to respect them and give them obedience. Even if a bad man were to come and lead Egypt, we believe in the protection of God and that he will use us at this time and we will continue to be the church."

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