By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- Six people have been killed and 600 injured in violent clashes following an opposition sit-in outside the presidential palace in Cairo.
According to a news release from human rights agency Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the protest is because of the controversial draft constitution and a recent decree that granted President Morsi sweeping powers.
The news release said CSW is calling on the British government to immediately raise concerns about both the decree and draft constitution with the Egyptian government.
CSW said in the release that according to news reports, rocks and petrol bombs were thrown at protesters. Members of the opposition accused the Muslim Brotherhood of organizing the violence. The Republican Guard has deployed tanks outside the presidential palace.
According to the release, the government has indicated its intention to proceed with a Dec. 15 referendum on the draft constitution, which does not offer adequate protection for political or religious freedoms, or equal rights for women.
CSW said the draft constitution was rushed through parliament without proper consultation, after members of opposition parties and church representatives withdrew from the drafting process in protest.
CSW said in the release that seven presidential staff have resigned since President Morsi passed a decree on Nov. 22 granting himself sweeping powers, and giving himself immunity from judicial challenges to his decisions.
Earlier this week thousands of Egyptians protested at the decree and draft constitution in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities across the nation.
CSW said the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called for restraint on all sides, and urged dialogue "which allows all voices to be heard."
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said in the news release, "We pray for and share the pain of those who were injured or have lost loved ones on the streets of Cairo in recent clashes. It is sad to see, after a strong national spirit became visible in Tahrir square almost two years ago, that Egyptians are now being attacked in the streets while living their newly found rights and expressing their opinions and demands."
He added, "There is no doubt that the issue of the draft constitution is one that is close to the hearts of many, and should thus be dealt with at this initial stage by consensus rather than simple majority, before being presented for referendum. Only then will Egyptians be able to move forward productively and embrace this new era of their contemporary history. We continue to pray for peace, safety, wisdom, restraint and protection for everyone in Egypt."
In a statement, CSW reported that United Action for Egyptian Christians (UAFEC) said, "We call on the Egyptian President to cancel his decree of (November 22), immediately postpone the referendum due to take place on (December 15), and allow the judiciary to carry on with their responsibilities. We believe that unless a consensus is reached for the constitution, the political and social turmoil will continue."
Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive, said in the news release, "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who died, and the many people injured in the violence in Cairo. We join UAFEC in calling on the Egyptian government to suspend the deeply divisive decree and constitution, and urge the government to uphold the right to peaceful protest and to prevent any further escalation in violence."
He added, "We also call on the UK government to make urgent representations with the Government of Egypt regarding the need to reconsider both the decree and the draft constitution in the interests of national unity."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.