THE COPTIC CHURCH AND POLITICS
St. Mark and his Lion, Coptic icon by Fadi Mikhail, UK.
Those who ask the Church to stay away from politics are either deluded and misguided or devious predators.
The Church of Egypt cannot be but political – an apolitical role for the Church cannot and will not be possible, even if it wants to. The presence of the Church in a predominantly Muslim society, that is backward and oppressive, necessitates that the Church takes a political role – and we want it to use that role for the good of the nation.
It is a fallacy to accuse the Church of hampering the growth of Coptic laity politicians. Both Church and Laity can work in politics side by side and assist each other in common goals.
The stance of the Coptic Church following the massacre of Al-Khusus and attack on the Coptic Cathedral in Abbassiyya, Cairo, is something to be welcomed. No real Copt will be but delighted and proud by the brave and strong statements by H.H. Pope Tawadros II and several Coptic bishops such as those of H.G. Bishop Angaelos,  H.G. Bishop Suriel and HG Bishop Bishop Serapion, except of course those who are passive cowards or afflicted by the Dhimmi Syndrome.
Their statements are all political – and in this sense, they have interfered in politics and dealt with it; and good for them! Politics is a noble pursuit; and although it has grown to be undertaken by a professional class of people in the West, it is such a common business that no social animal can do without. Only in backward, despotic societies is politics seen as a nasty activity. Politics, in fact, as Aristotle teaches us, is the master science through which humans attempt to improve their lives and create the “good and perfect society”. And if politics is highly respected in civilised societies, it is more needed in backward, oppressive societies such as Egypt. How can any Copt, clergy or laity, avoid working in politics, even if he wants, in a country that does not respect our fundamental freedoms and human rights, and persecutes us? It is right to be active in politics to improve our societies and infuse them with noble values – and it is right that the Coptic Church should defend itself; our religious freedom; our nation; and the universal human values that should guide and direct our country. And this is what Pope Tawadros II and his eminent bishops have tried to do: they simply wanted to see a country where the values of human dignity, sanctity of life, brotherhood, equality and freedom dominate.
Those who ask the Church to stay away from politics are either deluded and misguided or devious predators.*[see note below]Many who call themselves “secular Copts”, assisted by some left-wingers, call on the Church to abandon talking in politics, and rather dishonestly accuse it of hampering the growth of a Coptic laity leadership. They know fairly well that the Coptic Church cannot stay away from politics because we live, not in a perfect or advanced democratic state, but in a predominantly Muslim society that does not only disrespect Christianity but oppresses and persecutes its followers. Furthermore, the Muslim state which rules us, while on one hand, demands that the Church stays away from politics, on the other hand it developed the Millet system by which it does allow a particular Patriarch to be secure of ecclesiastical competition from other ambitious aspirants but demands, in return, that he presides over its Dhimmi herd to control them; ensure their submission to the Islamic state and its humiliating and discriminatory ordinances; and to guarantee that they pay Jizia in time, in full and without resistance [even though many aspects of this system have disappeared now, but they still exist in one form or another]. In short, in a Muslim state a Christian prelate is expected to be a religious cum-political man – politician to serve the purposes of the Islamic state and turn against his own nation. In short, the Muslim state does not want an apolitical pope – it wants a political pope but for all the wrong reasons.
And our religious leaders, since the invasion of the Arabs in the seventh century, have been trying to break away from this oppressive, degrading, and self-destructive Islamic system. Many times they succeeded through courage and manoeuvring to resist it; and sometimes they saw the evil consequences of the system which they could not but submit to. But times have changed, and God has not forgotten His people: now is a good time to resist. A brave stance for Church, nation and human values is good policy. We ask our religious leaders to resist the injustices that we face: we want them to stand up to tyranny, to be firm and brave, as they are wise and peaceful; and, as so many times in Coptic martyrologies we read, to play the man! And, my God, they did play the man!
[*] When I say “Those who ask the Church to stay away from politics are either deluded and misguided or devious predators”, the deluded and misguided are the Copts and their friends, who undoubtedly want good, but the devious predators are the Islamists, who want the Church to serve their politics.