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Prayers for Egypt's new president

Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood politician who on Sunday (24 June 2012) became Egypt’s first freely elected president, has vowed to be a ‘leader for all Egyptians’. And the leader of Coptic Christians in the United Kingdom has spoken of Mr Morsi’s election as a ‘step in Egypt’s process of change’ and offered prayers for him in leading the country in ‘positive reform’ and building a more ‘cohesive’ society.

2011: Egyptians celebrate the departure of Pres. MobarakWhen it was announced that Mr Morsi had won 51.73 per cent of the second round vote against ex-prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, euphoria broke out among thousands of his supporters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The country had waited all week for the result of the 16-17 June election, which was itself triggered by an indecisive poll, split between multiple candidates on 23-24 May.

In fact, Mr Morsi and General Ahmed Shafik, his traditionalist opponent, only polled 25 per cent of the popular vote between them in the first round of elections. So on Sunday night Mr Morsi spoke to reassure those fearful of what a Muslim Brotherhood president might mean for them.

Describing himself as “the president to all Egyptians”, he promised, “I will treat all Egyptians the same and respect them equally.”

The 60-year-old engineer continued: “We will work to establish the principles of Egypt’s civil identity as well as human values especially freedom and respect for human rights, the respect for women and family rights and children’s rights and to do away with any discrimination.”

The president-elect also sought to reach out to the activists by paying tribute to the nearly 900 protesters killed in the uprising. "I wouldn't have been here between your hands as the first elected president without … the blood, the tears and sacrifices of the martyrs," he said.

In an effort to allay international concerns, apparently including Egypt’s treaty with Israel, he said, “We will respect agreements and international law as well as Egyptian commitments and treaties with the rest of the world.”

Christian responses

Reacting to the result, Christian leaders have given Mr Morsi’s election a cautious welcome.

United Christian prayer earlier this yearThe interim Pope of the Coptic Church, many of whose faithful have feared the rise of Islamists, congratulated Morsi. In the UK, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, described his election as “a new step in the continuing process of change through which Egypt has been travelling over the past sixteen months.

“This process,” the bishop said, “has come at great cost and after much dedication and commitment from so many ..."

He continued: “We pray that God grant [Mr Morsi] wisdom to govern Egypt and her people, and hope this heralds a smooth transition to continuing democracy, leading to positive reform and the building of a new ethos that is cohesive, instilling a sense of citizenship, ownership and responsibility into every Egyptian. This is the time for Egypt to become a nation that does not focus on a person's religious or political stance, but more on his or her contribution and accountability to a single nation state and equality before the law.”

Pastor Sameh Maurice, a SAT-7 broadcaster and leader of the the Kasr El Dobara Presbyterian Church based on Tahrir Square, tweeted on Sunday “We congratulate our people for choosing its leader for the first time”.

From Alexandria, Egypt, the head of the Alexandria School of Theology, Rev Emad Mikhail, said Christians in Egypt had been “generally very discouraged with the results of the presidential elections” but, he added, "I continue to believe that the process of change begun last year will eventually lead to a better and freer society in Egypt. Join us in prayer that (1) Christians will be courageous but not provocative, (2) Freedom and stability will come about soon for all citizens.”

SAT-7's role

The protracted election process has been a divisive one for Egyptian society. In the light of this, the country's longest running Christian satellite channel, SAT-7 has sought to inform and allay concerns.

A SAT-7 TV panel on the first election eveningFarid Garas, the Executive Director of the SAT-7 studio in Egypt, said, “SAT-7 has played the role that it should… presenting hope through faith, encouraging people to trust God – who is in control.” SAT-7 prepared viewers for elections by airing a special episode of the current affairs show, Bridges – discussing apprehensions about voting and advocating for Christians to vote. As an organisation that does not take political positions, SAT-7 supports viewers by teaching how they can apply Christian principles to everyday life.

George Makeen, Programming Manager for SAT-7 ARABIC, and himself an Egyptian, says, “I believe our main task in the coming few months is to explain the situation to our people, so we keep them encouraged to know that the future does not depend on one step or one person being elected.”

This forward-looking philosophy is shaping SAT-7 programming. It emphasises the need for an attitude of reconciliation between election winners and losers, as well as a readiness for participating in writing a new constitution. Above all else, Mr Makeen believes Christians should stay involved, saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We cannot afford the luxury of withdrawing because of fear or despair now.”

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