Churches: Individual Copts should decide how to vote in referendum

The country’s three major churches have agreed not to direct Coptic voters how to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum, which is scheduled for 15 December.

A Coptic Orthodox Church source said the churches withdrew their members from the Constituent Assembly for many reasons, including not acknowledging the rights of Copts.

The church is a national one, the source added, and made its decision to withdraw in response to the desire of the street and citizens. However, the source said voting in the referendum is up to individual citizens.

“They have complete freedom, and will not be directed by anyone,” the church source said.

The source denied news spread on social networking sites claiming that Pope Tawadros II called on Copts to vote “no” on the draft constitution.

Father Rafiq Greish, spokesperson of the Catholic Church, said he declined to attend the ceremony for handing out the draft constitution after the presidency had invited him.

“We demand national consensus, and it is too early to say what we’re going to do,” Greish said. “We are giving time to the president to look for solutions.”

"My personal opinion, which is non-binding … is not to boycott the referendum, and vote by approving or rejecting it,” Greish added, saying that if those who reject the constitution boycott it, Greish said, it will serve the best interests of those who approve it and went to vote.

Reverend Andrea Zaki, vice president of the Evangelical Church, said the church’s position is clear, as those belonging to the Evangelical Church have different political opinions, like all other Egyptians.

“We do not mobilize people,” he said.

He added that the Evangelical Church was also officially invited to the ceremony, but has withdrawn from it.

Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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