Coptic Christians…who will they vote for?
In the 5,000 years of Egypt’s recorded history, this week’s presidential election marks the first time that Egyptians have been able to freely choose their leader. Just before elections, SAT-7 aired a special episode entitled “Coptic Christians…who will they vote for?”
Surprisingly, the guests did not answer the burning question at the forefront of viewers’ minds—who will Egyptian Christians vote for as president? They did not mention any candidate’s name, but used the word foulan (so-and-so) as they talked about the virtuous qualities of a potential president. Additionally, they did not express concern over the religious affiliation of the president, just insisted that he should treat all citizens equally. Guests did not promote or endorse a specific candidate, but encouraged Christians to seek God’s wisdom as they decide how to vote.
Journalist Hany Labib hosted three church leaders as distinguished guests during the first half of the show. They included Coptic Orthodox Bishop Marcos, the Protestant Pastor Refaat Fikry, and Father Boutros, the Deputy Patriarch of the Catholic Church in Egypt. Bishop Marcos expressed his desire for a president who has a vision for the future, saying “Give me a plan.” He drew attention to several areas of concern such as security, education, agriculture and tourism, upon which the economy is heavily dependent. Pastor Fikry would like to see a president that respects human rights and pursues peaceful international relations. Father Boutros advised that the president should be perceptive and value teamwork.
All three guests agreed that the country needs to avoid the mentality of treating Christians as a minority, acknowledging them instead as integral members of Egyptian society. “We may be a minority in numbers,” said Bishop Marcos, “but no one can deny our nationality.”
Featured guests in the second part of the episode included Dr. Georgette Qallini, a lawyer and former Member of Parliament, George Ramzy, a head of court, and Nabil Mounir, a lawyer specializing in Christian approaches to the law. Hany Labib anxiously asked Dr. Qallini if she thought that Christian women would be more afraid than men to go out to the polls and vote, for fear of violence or sexual harassment. Dr. Qallini emphatically responded that women are not more fearful. “There are 30 million Egyptian women. This is the size of 5 or 6 countries around us. These women would be afraid? Of course not! The Egyptian woman does not fear.” She then went on to describe the role of women in the revolution. Not only did women accomplish the same tasks as men during the revolution, but they were also instrumental in providing medical care and food. In an empowering argument, Dr. Qallini described the woman’s role during elections as catalytic. If a woman goes out to vote, she reasoned, how can the men sit at home? A woman’s participation in voting encourages the whole household to get out and vote.
A report in the program featured interviews with other pastors expressing their ideal presidential qualifications. Pastor Sharobim Milad said: “The President that we have all been hoping for would be a just person–a person who sees people without differentiation, whether the person be of any color, gender, religion, or creed. He would affirm that all citizens have equal rights and responsibilities. He would be capable of upholding the law for everyone, from the president to the smallest person in the nation.” The spiritual leaders interviewed had strong convictions about the president, whose hands would hold the future of their nation. Dr. Rev. Atef Mihney said, “I want someone who provides these things: he achieves social justice, he gives freedoms, and he gives dignity to the Egyptian. He leads a democratic country that has modernity and hope for progress.”
In other interviews, lay Christians were not at a loss for words. They are seeking a president who is balanced and truly cares about the fate of the nation. He should be a president who understands women and how to respect them. Others said it is also important to have a president who is wise and listens to the people. Several interviewees mentioned the importance of the president being like a father. Rather than enumerate a list of expectations, one interviewee stressed the importance of Christians supporting their leader. He pointed out that Christians should pray that God protects and grants wisdom to the president.
It is estimated that only about half of Egypt’s 50 million eligible voters participated in the first round of elections on May 23 and 24. Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi are likely to compete in a run-off election next month. Final results are expected during the end of June. In the meantime, SAT-7 stands by to prayerfully support Egyptians.
- Communications Assistant, SAT-7 USA