The words of Fr. Daoud Lamei spark heated debate and polarize community. During a sermon he said he was “saddened” by the way some girls and women dress. A news slogan: “Cover yourself, because so we can pray”. Critics speak of “Christian Salafism”.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Within the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox community the controversy raised in recent days by the words of a priest, who in no uncertain terms attacked what he called the “indecent clothing” of some women in churches, shows no sign of going away.
Fr. Daoud Lamei, a well-known priest from a wealthy Cairo suburb, among the most prominent personalities of the Coptic minority – known for its conservative attitude – of the capital, said as much as the Easter holidays “have cheered us”, “we are saddened [to see] girls and women who come to church in indecent clothes”.
“Why are they coming?” The priest continued, addressing the faithful, in the context of a sermon that has gone viral on social media in the country.
Speaking on the occasion of Orthodox Easter, Fr. Lamei then invited the Christians to cover their head and the body, before launching his last sortie: every man, father or mother, who lets his wife or daughter go to church with improper clothing “will have to answer before God” .
AFP and other international agencies tried to contact the priest. However, he chose silence and refused to comment on the controversy that followed his words.
On the other hand, among the faithful of the priest, the question and answer continues between those in favor and those against. Sandra Awad, 22-year-old student from the University of Cairo, who has been attending the church of Fr. Lamei, said the priest’s words saddened her. “He condemns women – she says – instead of explaining the right dress code and the behavior to keep”.
Other faithful of the community, known for being reserved and conservative, approve the externalization of the priest for having “awakened” the consciences and the morals of those who attend places of worship. And in these days several appeals have been circulated on the Internet inviting Christian women to dress in a more demure and moderate manner, according to the slogan: “Cover yourself, so we can pray”.
A campaign that seems to match up with an initiative launched by radical and conservative Muslim groups, which for Ramadan – the holy month of fasting and prayer that has just begun – exhort people to “cover themselves”. Precisely this parallelism has pushed a part of the Coptic community more favorable to modernity to define these policies as a sort of “Christian Salafism”, with a clear reference to the extremist and radical Egyptian Islamic movement.
“In a time of crisis for religious education – says Christian leader Ishak Ibrahim – the clergy ended up linking piety to modesty”.
In a nation of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Christians [especially Orthodox Copts] are a substantial minority, equal to about 10% of the total population. Between 2016 and 2017 the Land of the Pharaohs recorded a series of bloody attacks, which involved the Christian community itself.
In connection with the attacks, in October a military court sentenced 17 people to death.
The escalation of violence had also raised concerns about the cancellation of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to Egypt, in April 2017. However, the pontiff respected the program by meeting the president of the Republic, the great imam of al-Azhar and celebrated a Mass in front of tens of thousands of faithful.