Egyptian Church Official Urges Christians Not to Emigrate

CAIRO (CNS) — Egypt’s Christians should stay in their country and help it progress instead of taking “the easy way” of emigrating abroad, said a senior member of the country’s Catholic Church.

Father Rafic Greiche, head of the Catholic Church press office in Egypt, expressed concern to Catholic News Service on 20 November that hundreds of thousands of Christians have left for other countries since 2011, when a popular revolution ended the nearly 30-year secular rule of former autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak.

Those who are leaving “are the most educated,” Father Greiche said in an interview. “We need them to invest, not only their money but also their energy and as Christians they have the duty to be missionaries in their own country.”

Since Mubarak’s ouster Egypt has witnessed military rule, the rise of democratically-elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and then his overthrow by the military in July after millions of Egyptians protested his leadership. An interim government installed by the military now rules.

Father Greiche said foreign embassies in Egypt reported that as many as 300,000 Christians had left the country so far, but that the exact number was hard to confirm because many of those leaving had second passports and did not inform the church that they were emigrating.

“There are sometimes legitimate reasons, but most of the people, at the first problem, they leave. They take their American passport and go,” Father Greiche said.

After the 2011 downfall of Mubarak, violence increased in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country in North Africa of more than 80 million people.

Following Morsi’s overthrow in July, violence surged, most of it targeting Egyptian government facilities as well as the country’s Christian community, which accounts for about 10 percent the population.

Government officials and the country’s Christian leaders, including Father Greiche, have blamed the violence on the now banned Muslim Brotherhood as well as Morsi’s Islamist supporters. Brotherhood officials, many of them now in jail, deny they are behind the violence.

Father Greiche said attacks on Christians had decreased since August, when more than 70 churches around the country were burned, ransacked and looted. But he lamented what he called “a new wave of violence” targeting the country’s security apparatus, including the assassination in Cairo of a highly-placed interior ministry official on 17 November and the suicide car bombing three days later in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula which killed 10 soldiers.

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