ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — The Catholic bishop of Alexandria has welcomed the election of Abdel Fattah El Sisi as the country’s new president, saying his leadership will benefit both Christians and Muslims.
“His election gives all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, cause for hope,” Bishop Adel Zaky, apostolic vicar of Alexandria, told Aid to the Church in Need May 30.
“His victory gives us Christians security and a perspective for the future. Better times are coming.”
Sisi, the former head of the Egyptian army, won more than 93% of the vote, with voter turnout at around 46%.
The election comes after several years of political tensions. Sisi was head of Egypt’s army in July 2013 when it deposed the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi.
Many Christians in Egypt voiced concern about their fate under the Muslim Brotherhood and the previous constitution.
Bishop Zaky’s Apostolic Vicariate of Alexandria serves the some 20,000 Latin-rite Catholics who live in Egypt.
Most Catholics in Egypt belong to the Coptic rite, and most Christians in Egypt are Coptic Orthodox. Christians comprise about 10% of Egypt’s population.
Bishop Zaky said that the new president does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims.
“He is a religious person, but he sees religion as a private matter. His prime concern is his country. He demonstrated this when he saved Egypt from an impending civil war last year.”
Egypt has been politically unstable since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 deposed then-President Hosni Mubarak. A December 2012 referendum approved the country’s previous constitution, though that referendum was boycotted by secular elements of Egyptian society.
Bishop Zaky called on the new president to implement Egypt’s revised constitution, which was adopted in a January 2014 referendum boycotted by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The bishop called the constitution “a carefully formulated document” that, if properly applied, will serve the needs of “all sections of Egyptian society,” including women, workers, Christians and Muslims.
“Egypt now needs a firm hand,” the bishop said. “For three years, the country has been descending into chaos. Someone must apply the laws again and must not discriminate between sections of the population.”
The bishop also rejected criticism of the ousting of Morsi.
“If Gen. Sisi had not been at the head of the military, there would have been a civil war. We would have faced the kind of situation that prevails in Iraq.”
“We as a people had no possibility of combating the Muslim Brotherhood. The military only intervened when the people called on it to do so. The army did not act of its own volition.”
Bishop Zaky said that although Morsi had been elected, “the people saw that, under him, the country was facing ruin” and withdrew their confidence from him “to prevent worse things happening.”