World church groups concerned at Egypt situation, urge restraint

(Photo: REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi hold up masks of him as they gather at the Rabaa Adawiya square, where they are camping, in Cairo July 12, 2013. Tens of thousands of Egyptians packed into squares and marched along streets in Cairo on Friday to protest against the military overthrow of Islamist President Mursi, and the United States called for the first time for him to be freed.

The World Council of Churches general secretary has expressed deep concern over the escalation of violence in Egypt while saying he wants to encourage a peaceful and inclusive transformation in political systems.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit shared his views in a July 9 letter to the WCC member churches in Egypt on July 9.

The general secretary's letter was sent at a time of increasing violence between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and those opposed to his imposition of a strict Islamist agenda on Egypt.

Clashes between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohammed Morsi ended in  the deaths of more than 50 people on Monday. Security forces fired on pro-Morsi demonstrators outside a Republic Guard facility in Cairo's Nasr City.

The coup triggered mass demonstrations similar to those before the coup, this time from the pro-Morsi camp.

There has also been an upsurge of violent attacks against minority Christians in Egypt who make up about 10 percent of the population and one of whose leaders Coptic Pope Tawardros II said he backed the ousting of Morsi..

"We are praying for a peaceful and inclusive transitional process, in which all parties will work together to forn a govement that will lead the country to stability, justice and peace," said Tveit.

The BBC reported Saturday that the Unted States has called on Egypt's army to free deposed president following med Morsi, amid ongoing protests on the first Friday of Ramadan.

At the same time, the acting head of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Lakshmi Puri, has called for zero tolerance against all forms of violence against women and girls after reports of rape during protests.

"UN Women is concerned by reports of the high prevalence of sexual assaults against women in public spaces," the international agency said.

"UN Women adds its voice to calls on all parties to take a firm stand and show zero tolerance for all forms of violence against women and girls.

"Egypt's women have the right to fully participate in political dialogue without fear or threat of violence. Their voices are essential to a peaceful and prosperous Egypt."

For his part Tviet noted that the WCC strongly supports efforts of the churches in Egypt, working together with their Muslim partners, other political parties and civil society organizations.

He said this is needed to facilitate peace building through a reconciliation and healing process on the national level.

"We are also confident that political and religious leaders in Egypt are aware that in critical historical moments of change and transformation in political systems, inclusive processes are vital for the unity of the nation," Tveit stressed.

Meanwhile, at its 14th Assembly in Hungary which ended Monday, the Conference of European Churches, which has links to churches in the Middle East region, deplored the escalation of violence in Egypt.

The CEC, "We deplore the escalation of violence in Egypt, and we call all actors to refrain from violence called on all actors to refrain from violence."

The grouping of 115 mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant churches in Europe took note of the recent developments that took place in Egypt.

It said the country said that after "the largest demonstrations in which millions of Egyptians participated, the military took over power."

"The CEC Assembly expresses its sympathy and solidarity with the Egyptian citizens who are struggling to find ways to bring their country to a stable and functional democracy and fairer economic conditions."

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