Adapted from the broadcast audio segment; use the audio player to listen to the story in its entirety.
In his first address to the nation, Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s fifth democratically-elected president, vowed to serve as president to all Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians alike.
“We are all Egyptians,” said Morsi. “Even if our viewpoints are different; we are all nationalists no matter what parties and trends we belong to. We are all faithful to the revolution and to the blood of martyrs.”
As Egypt’s new president, Morsi must make an effort to represent the entire country, and especially appeal to Egypt’s Coptic Christians.
Though many Egyptians viewed Ahmed Shafik, Morsi’s opponent, as an extension of Mubarak’s regime, a large number of Copts believed him to be a civilian man in military uniform who would have enforced a civilian government. They went out in large numbers to vote for him.
Emad Gad, a member of the recently dissolved parliament, says that Morsi’s presidency poses a problem not only to Copts, but also to moderates and liberals.
“The only consistent institution in Egypt now is the army,” says Gad, “So I think in this transitional period, I think we need the rule of the military for at least one decade, in order to stabilize the Egyptian society. To be a guarantee, at least in the eyes of the ordinary people.”
Using religion to enforce their views is what most Copts fear from the rule of Islamists.
A Coptic woman, who refused to give her name, expressed her fears that Morsi would enforce shari’a law openly in the poor settlement town of Manshiet Nasser, known as el-Manshia for short, which harbors a large Christian community. It is otherwise known as the “garbage city” for being a hub of garbage collection and recycling in Cairo.
In an area of el-Manshia that contains a cavernous church, local people come to provide community services and welcome missionaries.
Mahrous Fathy provides such services in his free time, such as translation. He explains why people in el-Manshia would draw away from Morsi.
“I think there are people behind Morsi who will force him to take sometimes good and bad decisions, against Copts and Muslims too.” says Fathy. “I think if he takes a wrong decision, against the Copts or the poor, I will go to Tahrir.”
Though news of Morsi’s victory caused much jubilation in Tahrir square, the outcome of the elections can only be compared, for Egypt’s Christians, to a glass half empty.
Morsi is charged with the difficult task of sparring with the generals of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, the ruling military junta. The generals released a constitutional declaration that gives them legislative authority.
What might tip the balance, however, is a stand-off between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Medhat Ramzy, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, believes that leaving the struggle between both political poles to play out could last a long while. “I think it will maintain for at least 3 to 4 years,” he says.
Ramzy believes Morsi to be the lesser of the two evils. He favors the present circumstances to the other scenario of Shafik’s victory.
“When we are talking about Morsi, it seems the results saved Egypt from a lot of blood,” he says, “and this feeling is shared in all social classes in Egypt.”
For its part, the Coptic Orthodox church has been quick to congratulate Morsi on his victory on the same day the results were out. Father Athanasious Maher of St. Mikel church in Sheraton explains in detail the church’s position.
“As a church, we follow this principle which is that we must comply to our rulers and president, no matter what their tendencies or affiliations are. The general principle is that we also pray for them.”
Father Maher believes that whatever the orientation of the new president is, he must be tolerant of others and their beliefs. He says that Coptic fears extend to all Egyptians.
“Egyptians don’t feel very safe in the shadow of a rule which we know nothing of its ability to lead, to take responsibility, and deal with a number of matters such as tourism and the direction of capital.”
While the church continues to preach peace and brotherhood amongst Egyptians, how can Copts in the meantime carve a path for themselves in the new Egypt?
Morsi’s appointment of a Copt as vice-president is not satisfying to many Copts. Despite all these reservations, most Copts are determined to look brightly upon the future and safeguard Egypt as their home.
“Future-wise in Egypt, it is not clear for a lot of people but I am optimistic and I believe that everything will pass safely,” says Father Maher. “In my bible, it says, “God will save Egypt,” and I am not afraid for tomorrow.”
– Reported by Nadeen Shaker for America Abroad