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The Plight of Egyptian Christians can no longer be Ignored

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.redstate.com/2013/08/23/a-crisis-of-faith-in-egypt/ A Crisis of Faith in Egypt The Plight of Egyptian Christians can no longer be Ignored By: Jake
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2013

      A Crisis of Faith in Egypt
      The Plight of Egyptian Christians can no longer be Ignored

      By: Jake (Diary) | August 23rd, 2013

      Though it does not get much notice in the West, Egypt is home to some of
      the oldest Christian communities in the world. The city of Alexandria is
      known as one of the five ancient sees of the early church (along with
      Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem), and it calls itself the
      See of St. Mark (he of the Gospel). Today, reflecting how Christendom
      has fragmented over the centuries, there are three churches that claim
      to be the heirs of the church started, according to tradition, by the
      Apostle: the Coptic Church (also known as an Oriental Orthodox Church),
      the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Coptic Catholic Church. While the
      Coptic Church is the largest of these three, comprising about 10% of the
      country's roughly 90 million, all of them find themselves suffering from
      persecution as the turmoil in Egypt continues.

      The vast majority of this persecution has come at the hands of the
      Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. The situation has degenerated to
      such an extent that many Copts, along with a sizable portion of the rest
      of Egypt, even have some level of nostalgia for the days of Hosni
      Mubarak. As far back as February of 2011, right in the heyday of the
      Arab Spring, a /Los Angeles Times/ article
      noted that Copts were wondering what might happen to them under an
      Islamist regime:

      "He's the best of the worst," said Sameh Joseph, a church worker at
      the Patriarch of the Orthodox Christians Church in Alexandria.
      "Whoever comes after him might want to destroy us."

      So when more than 100,000 anti-government protesters took to the
      streets here Tuesday, most Copts steered clear.

      "Everyone is scared about what is happening," said Samya Hammoui,
      who lost two sisters and two nieces in the Jan. 1 bombing.
      Government officials blamed the attack on a Palestinian terrorist
      cell from the Gaza Strip.

      "If one of the Islamic extremists took over, things for us would be
      much worse," she said.

      Whatever Mubarak's flaws, and they were many and frequently grave, it
      was certainly in his self-interest to keep at bay the same forces that
      are persecuting Christians across the country now. With him gone, the
      only restraints remaining on the Islamist forces in the country are
      largely limited to their own whims, and since Egyptian Christians are
      one of the easiest scapegoats to blame for Morsi's ouster, they have
      been the target of particularly vicious attacks and persecutions since
      the military took over on July 3rd.

      While Egypt's Christians have suffered all kinds of attacks since the
      start of the Arab Spring, events just since last Wednesday, August 14,
      when Egypt's military moved to clear up two camps of pro-Morsi
      supporters <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hF4O8hwIw0>, should be
      sufficient to show the grim state of affairs for Egyptian Christians.

      On this past Sunday, August 18, a /Times of Israel/ article for the
      first time in 1,600 years
      the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery did not hold its Sunday
      service. The linked article also notes that the monastery's Priest
      Selwanes Lofty "said supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi
      destroyed the monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is
      an archaeological site. 'One of the extremists wrote on the monastery's
      wall, 'donate [this] to the martyrs' mosque.'"

      On the same day, the Associated Press carried a report
      recounting numerous instances of Islamist-on-Christian violence and
      general persecution:

      After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on
      the streets like "prisoners of war" before a Muslim woman offered
      them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually
      harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.

      In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by
      supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked
      dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by
      the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a
      warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political

      The brutality does not end there, either. The report continues by noting
      that, since the 14th, close to 40 churches have been looted and torched,
      and 23 have been heavily damaged. There are also two Christian
      fatalities: one was a taxi driver who made the mistake of straying into
      a pro-Morsi protest and the other was a man in the southern province of
      Sohag. To make matters worse, the police are too often nowhere to be found:

      Waheeb, other activists and victims of the latest wave of attacks
      blame the police as much as hard-line Islamists for what happened.
      The attacks, they said, coincided with assaults on police stations
      in provinces like Bani Suef and Minya, leaving most police pinned
      down to defend their stations or reinforcing others rather than
      rushing to the rescue of Christians under attack.

      Such was the case with the Catholic school they attacked:

      By the time the Islamists ordered them out, fire was raging at every
      corner of the 115-year-old main building and two recent additions.
      Money saved for a new school was gone, said Manal, and every
      computer, projector, desk and chair was hauled away. Frantic SOS
      calls to the police, including senior officers with children at the
      school, produced promises of quick response but no one came.

      Sister Manal, one of the victims, told the Associated Press in an interview:

      "We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us," she
      said. "At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled
      abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling
      us where they were taking us," she said. A Muslim woman who once
      taught at the school spotted Manal and the two other nuns as they
      walked past her home, attracting a crowd of curious onlookers.

      An article from the UK's /Daily Mail/ provides some more perspective

      'I am terrified and unable to focus,' said Boulos Fahmy, the pastor
      of a Catholic church a short distance away from Manal's school. 'I
      am expecting an attack on my church any time now.'

      And Bishop Ibram, head of the local Coptic Orthodox church, said he
      had instructed Christians and clerics not to resist the mobs of
      Islamists to try and avoid any loss of life.

      'The looters were so diligent that they came back to one of the five
      churches they had already ransacked to see if they could get more,'
      he said.

      'They were loading our chairs and our benches on trucks and when
      they had no space for more, they just destroyed them.'

      On August 18, the Assyrian International News Agency noted the following
      statement <http://www.aina.org/news/20130818125428.htm> from Coptic Pope
      Tawadros II:

      The Pope said the Church is on "the side of Egyptian law, the armed
      forces and all the Egyptian civil institutions when it comes to
      confronting violent armed organizations and terrorizing forces,
      either within the country or from abroad." The Pope pointed out that
      one should look beyond the squares where the Muslim Brotherhood have
      been holding their protests, in order to gain a general overview of
      what has been happening for weeks in Egypt. "The attacks on
      government buildings and peaceful churches terrorize everyone,
      whether they be Copts or Muslims. These actions go against any
      religion, any moral code and any sense of humanity."

      The Coptic Church also criticized the way in which the crisis is
      reported outside of Egypt. It expressly speaks of "false broadcast
      by Western media," and urges for an "objective" revision to be made
      of the descriptions given to the actions of those "blood-thirsty
      radical organizations." The Coptic Orthodox Church says that
      "instead of legitimizing them with global support and political
      coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon
      our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately."


      The views of the Coptic church are also held by Copts in general,
      who are angry with the US and EU powers, "who almost daily issue
      statements threatening to take further actions against our interim
      government and army, portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as victims
      while not even mentioning the destruction of over 80 churches, as
      well monasteries, orphanages, businesses and Coptic schools by the
      Muslim Brotherhood," says Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub who believes
      that this western attitude emboldens them to carry out further
      violence. "To add insult to injury the Muslim Brotherhood this week
      hoisted the black Al-Qaida flag on top of St. George's church in
      Sohag. Three churches were turned into mosques in Minya and Friday
      prayers were held inside them."

      What we are seeing now is nothing new. Since Mubarak's fall, attacks on
      Christians have occurred with varying levels of frequency, but the
      threat has nevertheless remained a constant in their lives. The recent
      wave, however, has been particularly horrific in its intensity, drawing
      comparisons from some to Kristallnacht and the many pogroms against Jews
      <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogrom> that were common in the 19th and
      20th centuries. To make these comparisons even more obvious, it should
      be noted that in the weeks prior to these recent attacks, Christian
      homes and businesses had been marked with red graffiti
      symbolizing the resolve of some Morsi supporters to protect his
      legitimacy with blood. In a piece titled "Egypt's Anti-Christian Pogrom
      the /National Review//'s Rich Lowry noted/:

      According to Sam Tadros of the Hudson Institute, a Coptic Christian
      who is author of the new book /Motherland Lost/, there has been
      nothing like it since 1321, when a similar wave of church burnings
      signaled a centuries-long period of intense persecution that saw the
      Coptic Christian community decline from somewhat less than half of
      Egypt's population to its current 10 percent.

      For the Islamists, the ongoing pogrom serves the immediate purpose
      of whipping up popular sentiment and the longer-term one of
      cleansing the country of Christians, who may ultimately face the
      fate of Egypt's Jews. They went from a population of 80,000 after
      World War II to literally a handful today. If Muslim Brotherhood
      rule would have been particularly dire for Coptic Christians, none
      of the recent regimes in Egypt --- including the latest set of
      military rulers --- has shown any interest in protecting them.

      So, what can be done? First of all,I should stress that the help we can
      give need not be military intervention. Instead, we should look to other
      means, and for many of us it's as simple as speaking out about the
      persecution . The Obama administration has been largely silent on their
      plight thus far. I am not going to speculate on his reasons for this,
      but this seems to be one of the issues where using the "bully pulpit",
      at home and abroad, is indeed appropriate. Furthermore, as Rich Lowry
      rightly notes, we should use what influence we have to push for the
      adoption of a non-Islamist constitution that respects religious freedom
      and the rights of religious minorities.Finally, it is worth considering
      some of Representative Frank Wolf's recommendations for U.S. policy in
      the country from his March 2013 report
      <http://wolf.house.gov/uploads/lebanon_egypt_tripreport2.pdf> on his
      trip to the Middle East. While it was released before Morsi's ouster and
      therefore is somewhat dated, useful suggestions can still be gleaned
      from it. In particular, his last two points merit mentioning (emphasis

      * The U.S. embassy should actively seek to cultivate relationships
      with the liberal, democratic Egyptian opposition groups and
      individuals, human rights groups, Coptic Christians and other
      key civil society actors. *By most accounts, U.S. policy has not
      evolved to meet the new realities in Egypt.* We have embraced
      the Morsi government the same way we embraced the Mubarak
      government---to the detriment of other elements of Egyptian
      civil society---elements with which we have a natural affinity.
      While such groups may not take the reins of leadership in the
      near future, they are central to the Egyptian democratic
      experiment, and we can bolster their standing and effectiveness
      if we take the long-term view. In this same vein, aid to Egypt
      should once again benefit Egyptian civil society, not simply the
      military and economy.
      * Congressional delegations traveling to Egypt should meet with
      activists, NGOs and Christian leaders to better understand what
      is happening on the ground and to hear firsthand the perception
      of the United States' support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

      The $1.5 billion in foreign aid we send Egypt is perhaps the biggest
      bargaining chip we have, and reducing or cutting it out entirely are two
      options that should remain on the table if Egypt fails to respect the
      rights of its religious minorities, both Christian and otherwise.
      Furthermore, as Rep. Wolf notes, we should refocus the aid we do send
      Egypt so that it goes to the people who need it most, not just the
      economy and the ruling class (whoever that ends up being).

      Friends, it is late, but it is not too late. The Egyptian Christians
      deserve our attention, and we should do what we can to speak out on
      their behalf and support them.Call your Congressman, tell your friends,
      talk about it with the people you go to church with, say a prayer,
      donate money to a respectable charity or at your church. We can all do
      something, whether it's great or small.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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