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The forbidden visit

Ever since the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979 it has been the position of the Coptic Church under Pope Shenouda III that, "There will be no visits to Jerusalem under the occupation under any circumstance." Indeed, that there should be, "No entry into Palestine with an Israeli visa" and, "There will be no trips to Jerusalem unless we go with our Muslim brothers after we have liberated it."

This was the national decision taken by the church, which decided to punish anyone who violated it by preventing them from taking communion, which is one of the seven sacraments for Coptic Christians. When Pope Shenouda passed away it was this particular stance that was highlighted in all of the obituaries written in his honour, as it symbolised his nationalism and authentic sense of Egyptian identity.

This nationalistic stance on the part of the church serves as a response to all those who have questioned the affiliations and loyalties of Egyptian Christians on the basis that they share with the Jews the Old Testament as a holy book, in which it is stated that the Lord promised the land of Palestine to the Jews. Many sceptics used this misinformed belief as a justification for the exclusion of their Egyptian Christian brothers from positions linked to Egypt's national security, citing the possibility that their national loyalties may conflict with their religious beliefs.

Doubters of Coptic loyalties based their presumptions on the acts of a small group of people, such as the Coptic expatriate Morris Sadek, who sent letters to Israel begging it to join the Copts in liberating Egypt from an Arab-Islamic invasion, similar to what had been done in the Zionist state.

Despite this, such doubts will fade away eventually because of the strength of Egyptian national unity and the Coptic Church's solid and unwavering stance of refusing to normalise relations with Israel even though it paid a heavy price for this position during President Anwar Sadat's rule. One must also mention that the Coptic Church completely refused to acknowledge a dogmatic and Zionist interpretation of the Bible.

However, with the news this week that there will be religious trips for Christians from Egypt to occupied Jerusalem in celebration of Easter and Holy Week, many have tried to use the development as an excuse to question the Copts' position towards Israel. The Coptic Church announced its rejection of any visits to occupied Jerusalem before its liberation and warned that it would impose penalties on all who violate the Church's ban.

This leads us to ask who is organising these trips to Jerusalem, and why, especially at this moment in time? Is this an attempt to cause a new rift in society or inflame the existing discord? Whatever the answers are, this situation must be dealt with firmly. We must support the Egyptian Church's firm and unwavering stance in forbidding such trips to the occupied city. All violators, whether Christian or Muslim, must be exposed and condemned.

Translated from Arabi21, 15 April, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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