Egyptian police have “no right” to threaten the lives of those protesting peacefully in Tahrir square, Giza Bishop Antonios A. Mina says.
“Using violence against peaceful people is not acceptable,” the senior Coptic Catholic Bishop told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on Nov. 22. “The authorities must explain their actions.”
Bishop Mina spoke from Egypt as the country’s military government faced protests comparable to those that drove out former president Hosni Mubarak in February.
The latest protests in Cairo began Nov. 18 and have drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets. But at least 26 people have been killed, and hundreds wounded, during a government response that Bishop Mina said was needlessly violent.
“The authorities have no right to shoot peaceful people,” declared the bishop, who said the army had “not learned the lesson that if you shoot people they will react.”
Troops have used teargas and rubber bullets – and, by some accounts, live ammunition – against protesters, some of whom have thrown rocks and firebombs at police, according to the Associated Press.
Protesters want an end to the military rule that began after Mubarak stepped down. As of Nov. 22, the army said it had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his cabinet, and would form a new administration with the intention of moving to civilian rule by July of 2012.
But many Egyptians do not want to wait seven months to elect a new president and end military rule.
With parliamentary elections set to begin Nov. 28, some protesters want an immediate end to the military government as well. One possibility that the military’s governing council is considering is a popular referendum on the question.
Bishop Mina said public trust in Egypt’s army was fading.
“The young people, who began the revolution (against Mubarak), no longer trust people in authority, especially the military. They were full of hope when the revolution began but now no longer.”
He said Christians and Muslims were “together in Tahrir Square now,” voicing “the same desire for a new future.”
Egypt’s Coptic Christians have seen little improvement in their second-class status since the February revolution. A Coptic rights march in October ended in violence that left 25 people dead and 300 injured, with police being accused of running over protesters and collaborating with Islamist mobs.
Meanwhile, the government has done little to address Coptic concerns over church-building rights and religious discrimination. In September 2011, the European Union of Human Rights Organizations said nearly 100,000 of Egypt’s Christians had emigrated since February.