By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egypt’s minority Christians faced new tensions Sunday, December 9, after the president annulled degrees giving him sweeping powers following deadly protests, but refused to cancel a referendum on a new constitution.
On Sunday, December 9, the liberal opposition called for new street protests to pressure President Mohammed Morsi to also halt plans for the December 15 referendum.
Critics say he the constitution was hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies during an all-night session late last month.
The opposition National Salvation Front therefore urged supporters to rally against the referendum.
Reporters said the size of Sunday’s turnout, especially at Cairo’s central Tahrir square and outside the presidential palace in the capital’s Heliopolis district would determine whether Morsi’s concession chipped away some of the popular support for the opposition’s cause.
Rights activists understand the opposition demands saying the new Constitution, if approved in a referendum, will only increase tensions.
“The draft constitution…does not offer adequate protection for political or religious freedoms, or equal rights for women,” said Britain based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement to BosNewsLife.
“The draft constitution was rushed through parliament without proper consultation after members of opposition parties and church representatives withdrew from the drafting process in protest,” CSW added.
Ahead of Sunday’s protests, representatives of Egypt’s Christians, known as Copts, expressed concern about new tensions following previous clashes that reportedly killed at least six people and injured over 600 near the presidential palace last week.
In comments distributed by CSW, the general bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdon, Bishop Angaelos, said his denomination was praying “for and share the pain of those who were injured or have lost loved ones on the streets of Cairo in recent clashes.”
The church leadership is also worried about the perceived growing influence of hard-line Islamists in the nation, since the ouster of previous President Hosni Mubarak last year.
At least dozens of Christians are known to have died in deadly clashes that the church leadership says was fueled by radical Islamists.
Those fears are shared by the influential Coptic leadership outside Egypt, including Bishop Angaelos.
He said, “It is sad to see, after a strong national spirit became visible in Tahrir square almost two years ago, that Egyptians are now being attacked in the streets while living their newly found rights and expressing their opinions and demands.”
The bishop said it was therefore crucial that the constitution should not be introduced after a quickly 0rganized referendum.
Since the condition is “close to the hearts of many” it “should thus be dealt with at this initial stage by consensus rather than simple majority, before being presented for referendum,” he stressed.
“Only then will Egyptians be able to move forward productively and embrace this new era of their contemporary history.”
Bishop Angaelos said his church would “continue to pray for peace, safety, wisdom, restraint and protection for everyone in Egypt,” where Christians make up 10 percent of the country’s over 80-million population.