Coptic women protest bishop’s statements on dress

Dozens of Coptic protesters staged a demonstration Friday morning outside the papal residence in Abbasseya to demand that Bishop Bishoy apologize for a statement calling on Coptic women to imitate Muslim women in their dress.

Bishoy, the secretary of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church and candidate for the papal position, made a statement four days ago saying: “I call on Christian girls to learn from veiled Muslim women their modesty. Some Christian women might be displeased with me, but the Virgin Mary, St. Demiana and the nuns wore modest clothes.”

Female protesters chanted at Bishop Pachomius, the acting pope, “Bishop Pachomius, why are you silent, aren't we your daughters?”

The protesters raised banners that read, “No to insulting the Coptic woman,” “The Coptic woman is a symbol of dignity and strength,” and “The Coptic woman is not a tool to achieve political interests.”

One of the protesters said that Bishoy “aims to appease the Islamist movements at the expense of Coptic women.” Some men were present in solidarity with the female protesters, while Coptic political movements did not participate.

Father Angelos read a statement sent by Bishoy to Pachomius aloud to the protesters. The statement read: “I would like to stress that our daughters were saints and modest women, and the Coptic female covers her head during prayers, mass and inside the church, which makes her a role model for all women worldwide. Women have a role in the church that we are proud of.”

The protesters rejected the statement and demanded to meet Bishop Pachomius.

Activists have also attacked Bishoy’s comments.

Naguib Gibreel, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, said that Bishoy's statements were “provocative” and “constitute a debasing and unacceptable stance on the dress of Coptic women.”

“Bishop Bishoy did wrong, and he has to clarify what he said,” Coptic activist John Talaat said. He stressed that he rejected “political statements…at the expense of religion.”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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