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EGYPT-SEDRAK Aug-28-2013 (360 words) xxxi
Egypt's Catholic leader: Don't use Christians as excuse to intervene
By James Martone
Catholic News Service
CAIRO (CNS) -- The head of tens of thousands of Coptic Catholics reiterated his church's refusal of outside intervention in Egypt, including under the pretext of "protecting Christians."
"We are Egyptian, an integral part of the Egyptian people ... foreign intervention in Egypt's internal affairs or it sovereignty under any pretext, for example under the pretext of protecting Christians, is rejected," said Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak.
It was the first time he specifically warned foreign governments about using the excuse of Egypt's Christian minority to intervene.
Violence has spiked in Egypt since Aug. 14 when the Egyptian military and police used bulldozers and tear gas to clear out camps of people protesting the military's July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
Hundreds of people, mostly protesters, were killed in the process, in what Western human rights groups have said was the military's unwarranted use of force on peaceful demonstrations.
Several Western countries, including the U.S., have voiced concern about the military's takeover and ensuing security situation in the country.
Patriarch Sedrak and the country's Coptic Orthodox leader, Pope Tawadros II, have come out in support of the military in what all three have termed "a war on terror."
Patriarch Sedrak said an Aug. 18 letter he had sent en masse to Western churches and other institutions abroad had helped to clarify what was happening in Egypt, namely "that the army and the police didn't act against the people, and that the (pro-Morsi) protests were not peaceful."
Since Morsi's ouster, and more so since Aug. 14, there have been attacks on Christian churches and other institutions across the country, as well as on government and security facilities.
The military has blamed the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathizers with whom Morsi was aligned, and many of them are being arrested. Several Brotherhood members have denied the group's involvement in the attacks.
Patriarch Sedrak said an assessment of the total number of churches and other Christian institutions was still underway. In mid-August, the Coptic Catholic Church said as many as 70 Christian facilities had been damaged or destroyed.
Christians represent up to 15 percent of Egypt's mostly 82.5 million Muslims.
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