Whatever one may say about religion, Christianity or the Coptic faith (the oldest Christian tradition on earth most certainly) there is no denying that this man led a group that has managed to preserve it’s own identity against an increasingly hostile, violent, even barbaric majority that considers all non-members to be without even the most basic imaginable rights. Rights such as not having your daughter forcibly abducted, ‘married’ to a member of the kidnappers family and forcibly have their official religion changed.
One can only wonder if the death of this man may mean more, or less restraint on behalf of the Coptic peoples of Egypt against their Muslim oppressors. I suspect we may not have to wait so long to know.
CAIRO, Egypt – Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church who led Egypt’s Christian minority for 40 years during a time of increasing tensions with Muslims, died Saturday. He was 88.
His death comes as the country’s estimated 10 million Christians are feeling more vulnerable than ever amid the rise of Islamic movements to political power after the toppling a year ago of President Hosni Mubarak. The months since have seen a string of attacks on the community, heightened anti-Christian rhetoric by ultraconservatives known as Salafis and fears that coming goverments will try to impose strict versions of Islamic law.
Tens of thousands of Christians packed into the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo on Saturday evening hoping to see his body. Women in black wept and screamed. Some, unable to get into the overcrowded building, massed outside, raising their hands in prayer.
“He left us in a very hard time. Look at the country and what’s happening now,” said Mahrous Munis, a Christian IT worker in his 30s who was among the crowds. “Copts are in a worse situation than before. God be with us.”
Munis’ friend, Sherif Sabry, interrupted. “He was our rock. God help us find someone who can fill his place.”