Copts to form a Muslim-led secular party

The founding committee of the first Coptic secular party in Egypt, dubbed The Free National Coalition Party and presided over by a Muslim legal expert, is to convene its initial meeting in Alexandria on Saturday to discuss recently proposed constitutional amendments

The committee will also discuss the latest sectarian violence against Copts in the wake of a church burning in the village of Sol, located in Helwan, south of Cairo. The attendees will also hash over the bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Moqattam area where at least 13 people were killed and scores injured in recent days.

“We’ve chosen a committee to draft a comprehensive program for the party and its main principles such as the necessity of having a civil state and also the separation between religion and politics,” said party coordinator-general Joseph Malak. “I expect the committee to finish the drafting process within three months.”

Egypt’s Coptic minority accounts for roughly ten percent of Egypt’s 80 million strong population, constituting the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Copts oft complain of systematic discrimination from the state, especially in the arena of public service employment. They also voice anger over the state's failure to lift bureaucratic restrictions concerning the building and renovating of churches.

In the past, some Coptic activists tried to establish a Coptic party but the religious leadership of the church refused to align with those activists.

But after the Muslim Brotherhood announced they would form a political party, some Coptic activists urged the formation of a party. All major churches in Egypt, however, have denounced the move, calling it a step to ignite sectarianism in the Muslim majority country.

“We are not a Coptic party. We are just a secular party with strong Coptic presence. I tell you that asking you to look at the head of the party, the Muslim legal expert Hesham Sadek,” Malak told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Some prominent members of the party are secular leaders within the Coptic Church itself, such as Fouad Gerges, undersecretary of the Coptic confessional Council, and Kamil Seddiq, secretary of the council.

Other figures who joined the part are Ikram Labib, member of the Tagammu Party Central Committee, and actor Lotfy Labib.

Malak said that all the discussions within the party will be conducted in the framework of citizenship. “We are Egyptians and our aims are to serve the nation.”

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