Reg. No. 1084047
Editorial supervisor, Dr. Helmy Guirguis
Dr. Helmy Guirguis 71, the president of the UK Copts, passed away on the 31 of January, 2015 after a struggle with illness. UK Copts mourns its founder and leader. He is a leader that touched so many by his life and has been fighting for the coptic case till his last breath. The commemoration mass for his 40th day will be held on Sunday 15th of March, 2014 starting 8 AM in Saint Mary and Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Centre of Birmingham (Lapworth) .For commiserations, please send us an email to

Ever been to church?

Watani Weekly
10 June, 2007

Following the recent attack on Copts in the Giza village of Bemha, the Cairo weekly Al-Dostour (The Constitution) asked its readers to answer the following question; if you are Muslim, did you ever visit a church? And if you are Christian, did you ever enter a mosque? Readers were asked to comment on their visits. The poll yielded some eye-opening answers.

Some evil
Mohamed Selim from Imbaba, one of Giza’s poorer neighbourhoods, wrote that he was currently working for a master’s degree in Greco-Roman history, and did part of his research in the library of the Dominican monks in Cairo. Selim wrote that he regularly performed his evening prayers at the Dominican library where an area is assigned for Muslim prayers.

Rehab Saleh from the North Delta town of Kafr al-Sheikh, wrote she had long wished to venture into church but was kept out by the policeman on guard. As a child, she wrote, she used to pass by the church with her friends, but they used to close their eyes and recite verses from the Qur’an as though the church were some evil or vice.

Mahgoub Abdel-Dayem from Cairo wrote that he had always wished to attend Mass or listen to a sermon in church, but every time he tried to go in he was engulfed by an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and was intimidated by the church’s big gate. Mahmoud Shaaban from Beni Sweif said that when he once attempted to go into a church, the churchgoers stared at him with fear and he felt frightened as well, so he ran off.

No fear
Out of sheer curiosity, and to confirm whether churches were places of conspiracy and hidden arms as was sometimes circulated by Islamists, Emad al-Gindi walked into a church. Gindi wrote that his first few minutes inside were full of fear until he realised there appeared to be nothing to be afraid of and he decided to explore every inch. He found out first hand, he wrote, that there were no secret passages and no concealed arms or books.

“More like some social club,” Hany Shawqy from Cairo wrote of his first impression of a church grounds. Other than the church proper, there was a bookshop and a canteen, a store selling clothes at heavily discounted prices to the poor, and an office to receive donations. Shawqy wrote he wished mosques were the same.

Mahmoud Amin from a small village in the Delta, reminisced of his history lessons as a child in the village school. The history book said that, during the 1919 national revolution against the British occupation of Egypt, sheikhs preached in churches and priest talked in mosques. But the teacher commented that the priests were only allowed to say a few words outside the mosques because it was forbidden, according to Islam, for them to go inside the mosques. Amin wrote that the Muslim students in the class were revolted by what the teacher had said.
Worth noting is that no Christian reported having visited a mosque.

Top enemies
The independent Cairo daily al-Mougaz (The Brief) conducted two surveys and devoted full-page coverage for the results. Readers were asked to cite the top enemies of the Copts and the top enemies of the Muslims.

Writer Mohamed Emara ranked first among the enemies of Copts because of his book Fitnat al-Takfeer fi Misr (The Sedition of Apostasy in Egypt), in which he cited Christians as non-believers and thus sanctioned their bloodshed. Emara several times accused Pope Shenouda III of inciting sectarian struggle in Egypt.

Moderate-turned-fundamentalist Islamist thinker and writer Mohamed Selim al-Awa came a close second. Awa took a hard line against the Church during the 2004 crisis of Wafaa’ Costantine—the priest’s wife who was allegedly abducted and pressured into converting to Islam; she later announced she was Christian and had no intention of ever converting. Awa insisted Costantine was Muslim and that the church had obliged the authorities to let her reclaim her Christianity. In his book Fosoul fi Elaqat al-Muslimeem bi-Ghair al-Mulimeen (Chapters on the Relation between Muslims and non-Muslims), Awa wrote that non-Muslims were not to discuss Islamic issues, and remarked that accordingly the Pope should not be commenting on the application on Islamic sharia or legal code in Egypt. Copts should not be given any space in the press or media, he insisted, since their presence or depiction is tantamount to proselytising—an absolute no in an Islamic country.

Islamist intellectual and al-Ahram columnist Fahmi Huweidi ranked third among the enemies of the Copts, since he considers the second article of the Constitution, which stipulates Islam as the State religion, a red line that should never be crossed. Another Islamist intellectual and al-Ahram columnist Zaghloul al-Naggar ranked fourth for his notorious description of the Bible as a “notebook of superstitions”. Muslim Brother Mohamed Abdel-Qoddous ranked fifth for propagating the idea that churches were “armed fortifications”, and for, despite a show of respecting Christianity, strongly supporting Abu-Islam—head of the Islamic Enlightenment Centre—who heavily and humiliatingly derides Christians and Christianity.

Criticising Islam
As for enemies of Islam, it came as no surprise that Father Zakariya Boutros earned top rank for his weekly programme on al-Hayat Channel where he severely criticises and analyses Islamic verses and teachings. Father Morqos Aziz followed because of his open criticism of the official stance regarding sectarian issues and events. His remark that 95 per cent of the Copts do not find Churches to pray in was reported as particularly galling.

Last but not least was Father Abdel-Messih Basseet, who claimed that thousands of Muslims come to church and ask to be baptised because they believe in Christ, whereas Christians convert primarily for some material gain.

The paper declined to mention however, that programmes like Father Zakariya’s were the natural backlash to the harsh attack on Christianity that began in the 1970s and is still ongoing.

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