Egypt’s ancient Coptic Church chose a new Pope yesterday in a ceremony that went back centuries, as a small, blindfolded boy picked a name out of a sealed container.
The new Pope will have the formidable responsibility of leading Egypt’s 10 to 15 per cent Christian minority as it helps build a new and more inclusive Egyptian political framework.
The new Pope’s job has been made harder by the election of an Islamist president, although President Mohammad Mursi has been careful to emphasise that he is a president for all Egyptians and has eschewed the sectarian agenda put forward by the more radical Salafist Islamists in the Nour Party.
As Egypt’s largest minority, the Copts have an important role in working with the government and other civil society organisations to build a more transparent and open nation.
The country’s legal framework needs to be open to all Egyptians and should not be restricted to one community. For example, any implementation of the Sharia is a delicate area since the Copts are not bound by Islamic precepts.
All communities in Egypt need to work to keep this debate within constitutional limits and stop any resort to violence. There will be times when sectarian elements on both sides will commit acts of violence, as has happened in the past, and that needs to be contained.