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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Conversation: The church of Mubarak

*Me and Big Pharaoh Yesterday* BP: Did you hear about that Filopater Gameel guy? You know, the Father in charge of the Addrah(Virgin) church? Me: No, what's his story? BP: Well, he wrote this article in Al Ghad newspaper not supporting Mubarak, so the Coptic Church suspended him from working. Me: Hehe, No way. Pope Shinoda doesn't like dissent in his church huh? BP: Well, he did support Mubarak in the name of all copts. Me: Yeah, and they are not happy with it, the ones I talk to. What the hell is he doing? First he forbids copts from doing the pilgrimage to Jerusalem because of the "injustice that the Palestinians suffer under the Israelis", then he supports Mubarak in the name of the Coptic church and all coptic christians in Egypt and now he punishes people who may disagree with his political views? What is he thinking? BP: I have no idea man. All I know is that that priest refused to retract his article or sign a pledge that states that he supports Mubarak, so now he is suspended for a month and a half. He is supposedly one of the leaderships in Nour El Ghad party. I bet the Pope is also not happy about that. Me: Hehehe, but seriously, what is Shinoda afraid of? BP: I am guessing he is afraid that if he doesn't support Mubarak then things will get bad for his people. Me: Worse then they are right now? Is he joking? How could it possibly get worse? BP: I don't know, maybe he got some deal going or something. Like they will let him build 5 new churches or something. Me: Lol, They probably haggled him: “No, no, you only get 3 churches and a cross”. BP: “And the cross has to have only 3 ends, not 4”. Me: “And you have to name one of the churches after Mubarak”. Oh yes, I can see it now. BP: LOL, the church of Mubarak. Me: The MB would LOVE that!


At 8/23/2005 08:12:00 AM, Blogger R said...

Naming a church after Mubarak is a good idea. Mubarak means "blessed" and All Christians say it loud in all ritual prayers: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"; you can easily translate it to "Mubarak is he who comes in the name of the Lord"...
Mubarak (blessed) also means "BENEDICTUS"!! Wow.. he even rules the Catholic church...

Now.. seriously,
There has been long discussions about the issue in many blogs, most notably at Ghandy's (here, here, here, and here

I just want to make a little comment: Although I disagree with the whole issue, and I even have emailed my bishop expressing my "polite" objection (and he said that the Bishop's article was not to "impose" a view on all Copts),
there is still a point:
The Church Synod has the right (and jurisdiction) to ban a priest from joining a party. There is nothing wrong in that (in any place in the world). The bad thing is that they ban him and then go and issue a pro-Mubarak post.

But think about it,
they're so afraid (exactly as BP is) from the Muslim Brotherhood reaching power..
Ayman Noor seems to be now flirting with MB..
He wants to let them make a party and he promises free elections in two years. So,, did you get the church leaders point, albeit naive and superficial?

At 8/23/2005 08:14:00 AM, Blogger R said...

and thanks for linking the article

At 8/23/2005 07:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I have read that the Egyptian government controlled the appointment of the leading Islamic cleric in Egypt. I think Tantawi is the name. Does the Egyptian government influence the appointments of leaders within the Coptic Church?

Michael in Framingham

At 8/23/2005 10:58:00 PM, Blogger R said...

"Does the Egyptian government influence the appointments of leaders within the Coptic Church?"

At least, not directly.
But of course the gov't have many ways to influence that appointment, although it's a sensitive balance. Too much gov't intervention may lead to opposite effect.

At 8/24/2005 03:18:00 AM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

Ramy, I was actually waiting for you to reply on that post. When I wrote it I swear I was thinking in my head : "I wonder when ramy will comment and if he will rip me a new one?" It didn't take long and you thankfully didn;t rip me a new one, and actually helped me by shedding some light on posts that discussed this issue beforehand.

"The Church Synod has the right (and jurisdiction) to ban a priest from joining a party. There is nothing wrong in that (in any place in the world). The bad thing is that they ban him and then go and issue a pro-Mubarak post."

So you believe that the church should not be politically active at all, but rather neutral? Ok, I can live with that and I wish Shinoda did that, or at least said that he personally supported Mubarak and not in the name of the church. You know? But whatever, we agree on this.

However, I find it incredibly interesting in that magazine article that I think Ghandy had up it showed the new snippet of Shinoda supporting Mubarak and right under it the news of how Mubarak ok'ed building a new church in el Tgamo3 el khames. I guess some deal was made after all.

My question to you, however, is the following: How seriously do coptic christians take the decrees of Shinoda? Like will they really not go do the pilgramige because he said no? Will they really not vote for someone else other than Mubarak? I know that the church is strong in egypt and its followers do what it commands, I just don;t know how strong it is. Can you shed some light on that?

At 8/24/2005 12:12:00 PM, Blogger R said...

Ok Sam..
I already answered the question about the "pilgrimage" here

As for the "Church" power, let me first tell you that this word pisses me off!! Every time the Bishops, priests or neutral observers refer to the church leaders as the "church", it makes me mad-because the most basic definition of a church is the "assembly of the faithful", the "body of Christ". All these "big shots" are--by definition--servants whose job is to offer the busy member some services, not to rule them!

As for the Pope's influence (Shenouda not Shinoda by the way)...
I think he's one of the most influential in history for many reason:
- he has a charisma for sure, he's smart and eloquent, he has a "badiha 7adera" all the time and can tell the fastest joke (as when they told him in Assyout "enta gamouss kebir ya sayyedna and he answered el baraka fel 3ogoul elli betefham!)...
- he gained more popularity after Sadat put him under "monastery arrest"
- Copts are dealing with the "church" now as their syndicate, the only place that can express their rights
- he's a strong paternalistic dictator. He has appointed bishops and priests more than any Pope in history, and he's a good "teacher". So all the new guys are a copy of him; only old ones can oppose him, calling themselves "the disciples of Pope Kyrillos (Cyril)"

Unlike other systems in Egypt (whether the Watani party or Al-Azhar or whatever), the Coptic church has very good hierarchy, probably much better maintained than the huge Vatican Empire...
If this Pope dies today, his successor will be elected easily and silently. There will be no chaos or wahtever. There is a strong central control over the clergy everywhere in Egypt, because there is a bishop for every governorate (called in that context a diocese).

All this is a ground for an ultra-conservative mentality, especially that the church has been ruled for years by unmarried monks rather than Scientists and Doctors of Theology (as was the case in the early centuries when Alexandria School of Theology was the place of recruitment).

You can imagine such a rural, male-dominated, unmarried, cohort of monks "governing" the church, add to this how stubborn they are that they resisted conversion to Islam for 15 centuries!! Man.. What a mix!!!

At 8/24/2005 12:19:00 PM, Blogger R said...

... I am not against the involvement of every Coptic Chrisitan in politics, I actually encouarge it. I was just saying that the chuch leadership has the administrative power and right to ban its priests from joining a party.

They can't ban a priest from voting, but they can ban him from joining a party. The guy is supposed to lead prayer, take confessions, provide services, organize ministries, etc... It's very unlikely he can do all that while he's a party member.

If you add the American concept: The church is supposed to be neutral to keep it's tax-exempt status. I think this also makes a lot of sense.


The last thing: I think that-any way-the vast majority of Copts were going to support Mubarak (although I think most of them won't vote).
I think the Pope used this thing to gain some privileges (as you said.. a couple of church building permissions) or to tell Mubarak "See.. We stand beside you. be a nice guy now!".
By the way, if you go deep into P. Shenouda's psychology, you will find that he deals with Mubarak (and all politicians) from a superior stand point. !! He thinks a Pope is the highest authority on earth, and this may let you understand why he never went to meet John Paul II at the airport. Because Mubarak went!!
He said: "Now Mubarak went, it means he's treating JPII as the Vatican President. Why would I go then?... and he sent a bishop!"

That's why what Sadat did was "the undoable"! You will be surprised to find that 90% of Copts think that Sadat's death was a fast divine punishment!!! (Same mentality as MB and Salafists!!!)

At 8/24/2005 02:29:00 PM, Blogger ghandy said...

I'm happy I found this post by pure chance ...

Ramy and Sandmonkey...
You should have pointed it out on a comment on my site.

I enjoyed the reading

At 8/25/2005 04:06:00 AM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...


Thanks for the detailed and informative reply, as always.

I wouldn;t be surprised at all to the reaction that most copts had to the death of Sadat. It was in his time that the muslim/christian divide started in Egypt thanks to his release of the MB and the wahabbi influences on Egypt at the time.This is, and will always willbe, Sadatt's fatal flaw and it is kinda karmiac that its the one that ended up killing him.

As for the Pope, I do agree with you that he is a shrewd politician. I guess i am one of those people who favors that religious leaders stick to the spirtual aspects of life and keep away from politics. This is why I personally always liked and admireD Matta Al maskin myself. If it was up to me- and it never would be for like 1000 reasons- I would've wanted him in that position instead of the current Pope. The man is a genius. When i heard of the kind of scietific experiments he was conducting in his monestary I was suddenly very jealous that there is no equivelant on the islamic side. You know?

Anyway, i am glad you cleared those questions up for me. I am not really sure that the copts are going to vote Mubarak anyway, but you would probably know better now wouldn't you? Oh well, let's hope it's the right move for them!

At 8/25/2005 04:20:00 PM, Blogger R said...

"Ramy and Sandmonkey...
You should have pointed it out on a comment on my site."

Some stuff souds better in English, if you know what I mean.

I am so happy that Matta el Meskin is not a Pope. The guy--albeit very conservative and old-school--is a genius as you said.
He's a "Master" of spirituality.

One day he will stand in history beside St. Athony the Great, Francis of Assissi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, etc...
(If you knwo these guys)

At 8/25/2005 04:21:00 PM, Blogger R said...

I doubt you came here by coincidence. I bet you were after your sitemeter's referrer link :P


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