By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egypt’s minority Christians faced more uncertainty about their future Monday, June 18, after Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi claimed victory in the country’s first presidential poll since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak last year.
His main rival Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister under Mubarak but still preferred by Christians challenging Islamic rule, disputed the unofficial results. Morsi’s claim was seen as just one in a stunning series of events in the turmoil surrounding the presidential race, with the ruling military increasing its influence.
Just after the polls closed, the governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a constitutional declaration, granting itself legislative powers, control of the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution.
Under the new rules, whoever becomes the next head of state, has less influence than previously planned. Egypt’s new president can form and fire a government, ratify or reject laws and declare war, but only after SCAF’s approval.
Representatives of Christians, also known as Copts, initially welcomed a decision last week by the country’s top court to dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament amid concerns over election irregularities.
However with the outcome of presidential elections in dispute and the military increasing its power base, there are concerns of civil war and more attacks against Christians, rights activists said Monday.
“A military takeover of the democratic process that Egyptians fought so hard to achieve could mean civil war,” warned Aidan Clay, the regional manager for the Middle East of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
“A similar situation occurred in Algeria when the army staged a coup just before elections to stop the Islamic Salvation Front from gaining victory in 1991. The result – 150,000 to 200,000 killed in a decade long civil war,” he added in a statement to BosNewsLife.
Already Christians have complained of attacks against churches and other clashes in which dozens have died and hundreds were injured since last year. At least 100,000 of Christians have fled violence-hit Egypt since 2011, according to Open Doors, a group supporting reportedly persecuted Christians.
Though Christians believe a military-led government may protect them against even more hardline Islamic rule, Clay cautioned that Islamists will not back-down. “Remember that 75 percent of registered voters voted for Islamists in the parliamentary elections.”
Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel, said in published remarks that he believes massive violence will be the inevitable result.
“The armed forces concluded that an Islamist takeover was so dangerous for Egypt and for its own interests that it is better to risk civil war, a bloodbath, and tremendous unpopularity than to remain passive and turn over power… They have decided that they had no choice.”
Coptic Christians in Egypt comprise some 10 percent of the population–one of the largest minorities in the Middle East, according to experts.