CAIRO: A Facebook group has called for the Coptic community to strike on the day of Coptic New Year to express their dissatisfaction towards Government complacency towards sectarian issues.
In a statement released on the social networking website Facebook, the group, calling itself “Copts For Egypt, demanded the adoption of a uniform law regarding the construction of houses of worship and also called for fair trials, aiming to do so by encouraging Copts to stay at home on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
The group instructs those who are unable to strike to register their protest by attending work wearing black clothes.
Sameh Fawzy, political analyst and commentator told Daily News Egypt that he does not approve of such activities in a country like Egypt because he believes them to have a chaotic effect. He added that “it is through democratically-elected political institutions that such issues can be resolved.
Many Egyptians have complained about the bureaucratic obstacles imposed when petitioning to build and repair churches; such obstacles do not exist for work on mosques.
Fawzy understands that there is a discrepancy between the process of building mosques and churches and that this causes unrest. However, he thinks that strikes “are pointless when you are not in a position to negotiate; this kind of activity has never succeeded in a country like Egypt.
The government-funded National Council of Human Rights, the Coptic community and many members of the Muslim community have called for a universal law regarding the building of all houses of worship.
Social networking websites are increasingly being used to mobilize citizens; in Iran during the recent elections, the website Twitter was used to update people on the latest happenings.
When asked about the role of such websites in mobilizing the masses, Fawzy replied that, “We don’t need to include Facebook in everything. He added that a systematic, practical and functional solution is needed. “As an active member of the Coptic community, I had not heard about this and so the message did not get through.
Copts For Egypt, however, is not fazed by this, commenting that, even if their demands are not met, they will not recognize the current methods employed and will exhaust all of their lawful rights in pursuit of expressing their views.
Nevertheless Fawzy argues that, “Political activism is not well-established in Egypt and so such activities might have the opposite effect; a negative effect.
People might start to view Copts as trouble-makers.
He added that, “To achieve our goals in Egypt, we need to be conscientious, wise and understanding and we have to get the public behind the Copts.
The Orthodox Coptic Church chose to distance itself from the strike. Anba Morcos, Chairman of Church’s Information Committee spoke to the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat, stating that “The Church has no connection to these calls for a strike. He added that Pope Shenouda refuses to advocate such methods and always insists on employing “dialogue and understanding to solve problems.
Many political analysts argue that the rift between the Muslim and Coptic Egyptian communities is caused primarily by the law regarding houses of worship. Facebook is a platform that has enabled the Coptic community to express their individual identity, with one prominent example being the group “I am Coptic, not Arab.
Sameh Fawzy acknowledged the discontent amongst Egyptians and particularly Copts but observed that even though people are lethargic and apathetic towards the current political system, activity in political life ought to be encouraged. He added that, “We have to struggle to achieve what we want.
Estimations register the number of Copts in Egypt at between 6 and 12 percent, but it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number.