JIHAD AGAINST EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS: THE U.S. MUST SPEAK OUT
John Stonestreet, BreakPoint
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
In his recent book Fleeing Herod, the Australian writer James Cowan retraces the steps of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt following Joseph’s dream warning him about Herod’s intentions toward the infant Jesus.
Cowan admits in the prologue that current events in Egypt made him even more conscious of Egypt’s history and “the millennia of knowledge embodied in its sands.”
Cowan’s guide on his journey is a fourth-century text written by a Coptic Pope, Theophilus of Alexandria, entitled “The Visions of Theophilus.” Along the way he meets monks, nuns, pilgrims and the then-Coptic Pope.
Whether or not we believe the fourth-century reference of Mary being under an Egyptian tree, one Coptic belief is undeniable: “Egypt [is] central to the birth of Christianity.”
Thus, Christians must be concerned about what is happening to Coptic Christians today.
Since Matthew chapter 2’s quoting of Hosea – “out of Egypt I called my son” – Egypt was at the heart of the Christian story. It provided sanctuary for the Holy Family. And later produced some of the Church’s greatest minds: Tertullian, Origen and the great defender of orthodoxy, Athanasius.
The father of monasticism, Anthony, was Egyptian, and, for much of the Church’s early history, Alexandria was the mind and soul of the Faith.
Many don’t realize that Egypt was Christian for six centuries before the coming of Islam. We call the descendants of those Christians the Copts. For 14 centuries they and their ancestors have kept the Faith even when life would have been easier if they hadn’t.
Little has changed. Today, they face what Nina Shea has called a “Jihad.” The chaos in Egypt, like the chaos in Iraq and Syria, has made it “open season” on the country’s Christian minority. As Shea writes in National Review, “The [Muslim] Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been inciting the anti-Christian pogroms on its web and Facebook pages.”
For those unfamiliar with the term, “pogroms” were the anti-Jewish attacks in Tsarist Russia that killed thousands and led to the emigration of millions of Jews to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Brotherhood would love to see the Copts do likewise.
If they succeed it will be in part because Christians in the West did nothing. Right now, the mainstream narrative about Egypt depicts the Brotherhood as the victims. It is far more concerned with the impact on Egyptian “democracy” than the fate of Egyptian Christians, or that of any Egyptian that doesn’t want to live in a theocracy.
They are not telling the story, so we have to. They are not urging our leaders to protect Egyptian Christians, so we have to. We cannot stand by in silence while yet another ancient Christian community is threatened with extinction.
Of course, that requires understanding that these are ancient Christian communities in the first place. Many American Christians knowledge of church history barely goes back a century. You might say we have evangelical Alzheimer’s. Because we are unfamiliar with the past, we are ignorant of our debt to those who went before and their descendants.
In Cowan’s book, then-Pope Shenouda, who spent the early years of his papacy under house arrest, tells him that it “seemed that [Herod] feared the presence of a lowly peasant family in his kingdom more than he did his enemies.” Today’s tyrants fear the presence of Christians in their would-be kingdom.
It’s time for us to repay an ancient debt.
Call or email your representative in Congress. Contact your Senators. And the White House. The U.S. must speak out and condemn the targeting and murder of Egyptian Christians.
Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll link you to Nina Shea’s article. We’ll also show you how you can reach your elected leaders. We’ll even provide a sample message.
And of course, we must pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: August 21, 2013
EGYPT: WHERE IS THE WORLDWIDE SUPPORT FOR CHRISTIANS FROM CHRISTIANS?
Cal Thomas, Syndicated Columnist
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Have you been following the tragedy that is Egypt? Are you paying attention to the Christians who are being attacked, their churches burned and some of their clergy targeted for assault?
Where is the worldwide support for Christians from Christians? Nuns are paraded in the street like hostages. Churches have been burned.
And how about this: Islamists splashed red graffiti on the homes of Christians and their churches, alerting terrorists where to strike. Doesn’t this remind you of Exodus, where Jews put blood on their door posts so the angel of death would pass over them? It’s the reverse in modern Egypt. The red graffiti is placed on the structures to harm or kill those inside.
Our Jewish friends speak out when one of their own is persecuted and we see every day how Muslims react to perceived or actual slights. Where are the Christians in support of their brethren in Egypt? The least that should be done is to pray for them. The least, but not enough.
I’m Cal Thomas in Washington.
Publication date: August 21, 2013
ASSAULTS ON CHRISTIANS CONTINUE IN EGYPT, ISLAMISTS CALL FOR ‘FRIDAY OF MARTYRS’ PROTESTS
International Christian Concern
Friday, August 23, 2013
(ICC) — International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that deadly assaults on Christians at the hands of radical Islamists have continued across Egypt more than nine days after Muslim Brotherhood protests were dispersed last week. ICC sources inside the country report that many Christians are “living in horror” as police forces continue to ignore attacks on Christian communities and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi call for new protests on Friday.
On Tuesday, ICC sources reported that supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi murdered Mohsen Arnest and his son-in-law as they were on their way home in the village of Al Sarakna in Upper Egypt. While ICC could not independently verify the killings, if accurate, their deaths bring the estimated number of Christians killed since last week to seven.
Also on Tuesday, ICC sources reported that the Muslim Brotherhood had taken over “full control” of the city of Kerdasa in the Giza Governorate of Lower Egypt. The Brotherhood is reportedly setting up fortifications in the city to prevent the entry of police and the military while forcibly displacing all of the Christian families in the city, threatening to kill the families if they do not leave.
On Wednesday evening, a dispute between Christian and Muslim youth led to severe clashes between Muslims and Christians in the village of Saft El Laban, about ten kilometres outside of Minya. The argument purportedly began after Muslim youth attacked a Christian boy, known only as “Mokbel,” and attempted to steal his motorcycle. The boy refused and ran home, only to be chased by the group who proceeded to try and break down the front door of the home. The Christian family fled to the rooftop and began throwing bricks down on the group, one of which struck and killed a young Muslim. Soon after, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood used a loudspeaker at a mosque to call on Muslims to attack Christian homes in reprisal. At least eight Christian homes in the village were burned and an unknown number of Christian villagers injured in the attacks that followed.
In an exclusive eyewitness account obtained by ICC, a local Christian resident, Mina Saber, describes the ordeal: “What happened was terrible. They were chanting ‘Allah Akbar’ as they burned the Christian homes. They destroyed more than eight Christian homes, insulted us, and injured many Christians in the absence of the police. We tried many times to call the police to come and protect us from these attacks but not one of them came.” Mina went on to say that Christians are currently “living in horror and great fear and panic because they threatened to kill all of us and they said they are going to purify the village from the Christians … unfortunately there isn’t any protection for us.”
Early Friday morning ICC sources also reported that masked gunmen, suspected to be radical Islamists, abducted a 35-year-old Christian man, Waheed Naim, from the village of El Habalsa in Upper Egypt. Waheed was reportedly guarding the construction site of his new home when he was taken at gunpoint and stuffed into a waiting vehicle. Two hours later, Waheed’s family was contacted and ordered to pay 500,000 Egyptian pounds, or more than 71,000 dollars, for his release. Waheed’s status is currently unknown.
Ryan Morgan, a regional manager for International Christian Concern, said: “The reports of Christians being attacked across Egypt continue to stream in day after day after day. We are appalled, though not surprised, by the deadly violence members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups are inflicting on a largely defenseless Christian minority. The United States should immediately call on the interim government in Egypt to protect Christian communities, especially those in outlying areas of Upper Egypt, from further attack. No one else should have to die simply because they are a member of a religious minority.”
International Christian Concern is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides awareness, advocacy and assistance to the worldwide persecuted church.
Publication date: August 23, 2013
IN EGYPT, COPTS REMAIN AN ‘EASY TARGET’ FOR VIOLENCE
Kristin Wright, ReligionToday.com Columnist
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
In Al Nazla, a small village about 60 miles southwest of Cairo, you can still see the red graffiti marking the homes and businesses of Coptic Christians. The Saint Virgin Mary church in this town was among dozens of churches attacked and ransacked throughout the country in the wake of Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow.
Mr. Awad, one of the members of the congregation, says he can remember when relations between Christians and Muslims in Al Nazla were positive – mere days before he watched as those he had known as neighbours and even friends joined in the attacks against his church.
“We were neighbours and friends, we did business together and talked together,” he says. “However, when they had to choose between religion and us, they chose religion.”
As Egypt’s unrest continues, Coptic Christians are facing increasing violence across the nation. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has documented at least 39 attacks against Coptic schools, churches and places of business – just since Morsi’s overthrow.
Mary-Jane Deeb is chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. Born and raised in Egypt, she told PBS Newshour on Monday that “the Copts are an easy target” for violence.
In the nation’s current chaotic state churches are easily targeted – and not so easily guarded, Deeb added. “There’s no security and ability to protect particular places or people,” she added.
Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Orthodox Church has called the attacks the most “unprecedented attack on the Coptic Church in our modern era.”
He says he believes the military took the right action to end the violence, and blames the Muslim Brotherhood for attacks against Coptic Christians throughout the nation.
“Why are the Copts being taken as scapegoats, when they are an integral part of the Egyptian society?” he says.
“I believe that we have to hope and I do believe that we will come back to a democratic process. … I think all of the people in the Middle East still have a lot to learn about democracy, but I believe that if they are united together, the moderate Muslims with the Christians, that we will be able achieve this.”
In Al Nazla, church members are holding services in spite of the attacks.
“We have to pray no matter what happens,” one church member said. “Even if they burn it to the ground, we will pray here.”
Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, and the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai’s “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin recently returned from Turkey and the Syrian border, where she covered the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict. She can be contacted at [email protected]
Publication date: August 20, 2013
EGYPT MILITARY SUPPORTERS RALLY AT WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON August 22, 2013 (AP)
By JOSH LEDERMAN Associated Press
About 500 protesters supporting Egypt’s military are marching outside the White House.
They’re denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists and insisting the ouster of Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi wasn’t a coup.
The protesters are chanting “down with the Brotherhood” and demanding Obama not interfere with the military’s crackdown.
Twenty-four-year-old Vivian Michael says Egyptian-American groups and Coptic Christian churches organized the protests. She says if Obama can’t support Egypt’s transition, he at least should not condemn it.
The Secret Service says the protests are peaceful ,and there have been no arrests.
The Obama administration is conflicted over whether to cut off Egyptian aid. The U.S. wants to continue aiding Egypt’s military-backed government to maintain ties and regional influence. But it doesn’t want to condone the bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.
EGYPTIAN CHURCH MASS CANCELLED FOR FIRST TIME IN 1,600 YEARS AS ATTACKS CONTINUE
By Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter
August 22, 2013|2:46 pm
As Christians in Egypt find themselves at the center of hostile attacks by Islamic protesters, a church in Minya was forced to cancel Mass on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.
“We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years,” explained Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery in Degla, south of Minya. The priest revealed that supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi destroyed the monastery, which includes three churches, according to Times of Israel.
He added that one of the attacker had wrote on the monastery’s wall “donate [this] to the martyrs’ mosque.”
Coptic Christians make up only around 10-12 percent of Egypt’s population, and are considered one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. They have been heavily targeted by Muslim Brotherhood-led protesters in recent weeks, who accuse them of backing the rallies against Morsi that took him down. Christian schools, churches, monasteries and bookshops have been attacked and burned, and there have been several reports of Christian casualties.
American Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Jordan Sekulow told The Christian Post on Tuesday in a phone interview that it was “absurd” that Islamists are taking out their anger on Copts.
“On one hand you have the Muslim Brotherhood, who in the past has seen that targeting Christians has unified Muslims. I think that says more about the entire Muslim community than it does just the Muslim Brotherhood, and this gives Muslims that are not part of the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to stand up and say ‘No, this will not unite us – in fact, this will divide us,'” Sekulow told CP.
The ACLJ is leading a petition calling on President Barack Obama to demand Christian protection in Egypt in exchange for the foreign aid the U.S. sends the troubled Arabic country.
The Obama Administration and several Western news sources have blamed Egypt’s interim government for the widespread violence that has killed hundreds of people in Cairo and several major cities, but the Coptic Church has backed security forces against what it called “groups of armed violence.”
“The Egyptian Coptic Church is following the unfortunate developments on the ground of our country Egypt and emphasizes its strong stance with the Egyptian police, armed forces and other organizations of the Egyptian people in the face of groups of armed violence and black terrorism,” the church, headed by Pope Tawadros II, said in a statement.
“While we appreciate the sincere and friendly position that understands the nature of the developments, we strongly deplore the media fallacies that are prevalent in Western countries,” the statement added.
OBAMA MUST DEMAND CHRISTIAN PROTECTION IN EXCHANGE FOR FOREIGN AID TO EGYPT, PETITION URGES
By Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter
August 22, 2013|9:10 am
Jordan Sekulow Says US Must Demand Christian Protection in Egypt
A petition started by the American Center for Law and Justice is urging President Barack Obama to make sure foreign aid given to Egypt comes with the condition that Christians are protected from the escalating attacks they are suffering at the hands of Muslim-Brotherhood backed Islamists.
“Seventy churches shouldn’t be burned down throughout Egypt. That’s happening because the military is not yet willing to stand in the way,” Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ executive director, said in a phone interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday.
“Words are not enough. Yes, the United States – when we speak, it’s powerful, but what also makes us powerful is the amount of funding we provide to the world and I think this is one of the opportunities we have to at least give this Muslim majority population and military, which we’ve had a pretty good relationship with, the opportunity to do the right thing.”
The U.S. government sends a substantial amount of aid to Egypt every year – close to $1.3 billion, which it says goes into stabilizing the region and helping the decades-long American ally in the Middle East.
With the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, however, and with the current protests following the ousting of president Mohamed Morsi that have led to hundreds of deaths in clashes between activists and government forces, many are questioning the allocation of that aid money.
Following the deadly clashes last week that claimed over 600 lives, the U.S. condemned the actions of the interim government and said that it is halting planned military exercises with Egypt. Reports circled earlier this week claiming that the $1.3 billion annual aid to Egypt has also been cut, but National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that such stories are “incorrect.”
“As the president has said, we are reviewing all of our assistance to Egypt. No policy decisions have been made at this point regarding the remaining assistance,” Hayden added.
The ACLJ petition, which has already been signed by over 37,000 people, calls on Obama to comply with human rights requirements and to stand on the side of religious freedom against the Muslim Brotherhood.
“American aid must be conditioned on the protection of Christians, and it must be used to oppose our jihadist enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood,” the petition states, and lists the growing number of attacks against Christians in the North African country.
Islamist mobs have burned down a number of churches, monasteries and Christian schools, and there have been reports of Christians who have been killed, as Islamists are turning their anger toward Egypt’s minority Coptic population for backing the protests that brought down Morsi.
Sekulow told CP that one of the main reasons Islamists are targeting Christians is because it gives them a sense of unity.
“On one hand you have the Muslim Brotherhood, who in the past has seen that targeting Christians has unified Muslims. I think that says more about the entire Muslim community than it does just the Muslim Brotherhood, and this gives Muslims that are not part of the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to stand up and say ‘No, this will not unite us – in fact, this will divide us.'”
He noted that the Egyptian military is one of the largest in the world, supplied substantially by the U.S., and that it has the ability to defend churches – but that would mean it would have to put its soldiers, many of them Muslims, on the line to defend Christians – something it is unlikely to do without a specific condition on the aid money.
The ACLJ executive director said that the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims that Christians are responsible for the overthrow of Morsi are “absurd.”
“Sure, they were supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood president going down. But they make up at most 10-12 percent of the Egyptian population of 84 million, they are 8 million,” Sekulow said.
“I don’t believe the Muslim Brotherhood wants to acknowledge that it was Muslims that decided they had enough of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Egypt’s Copts found themselves in a similar situation in the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak, where scores were killed in attacks by Islamists, and by government forces when they were protesting against those very same attacks.
Sekulow noted that in Egypt, Christians are not really able to defend themselves.
“When Christians fight back and defend church property, and a Muslim gets killed, then the military has shown in the last couple of years that they will roll in tanks into the Christian neighborhoods. The Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies are now arming themselves and they are following a very similar plan to what the Nazis did in Europe, by labeling the homes of Christians.”
The ACLJ petition, he says, seeks to get the U.S. government to create conditions so that Egypt’s government shows that it is ready to protect churches and its minority population from the ongoing human rights abuses.
“A lot of the finances do go toward peace in the region, which historically has been a good country,” Sekulow continued.
“But we supported the overthrow of the leader who was behind that, Hosni Mubarak. It (Mubarak’s reign) wasn’t a great place for Christians, but Christian churches were not regularly being destroyed. It was a sense where the government had shut down or imprisoned the Muslim Brotherhood and made them go underground, though they stayed very much alive and organized – but they knew that if they had done something like that, then that military would crack down.”
Other human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have also joined the call for the Egyptian government to start protecting Christians from the “unprecedented rise” in violence against them.
“It is a shocking dereliction of duty that security forces failed to prevent these sectarian attacks and protect Coptic Christians,” said Hassiba Hadja Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“The backlash against Coptic Christians should have been anticipated following the dramatic rise in similar incidents since Mohamed Morsi was ousted. Attacks against Coptic Christians must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”
The petition to Obama can be found on ACLJ’s website.
AMERICAN MOM CHRONICLES FLEEING FROM CAIRO, EGYPT WITH CHILDREN AMID WIDESPREAD VIOLENCE
By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
August 23, 2013|10:14 am
An American mother and author living in Cairo, Egypt with her two sons and husband has been chronicling her family’s decision to temporarily leave the turbulent country amid growing violence following the ousting of former-President Mohamed Morsi last month.
Monique El-Faizy, a journalist who has written for such publications as The New York Times and the Washington Post, moved to Cairo with her two children and husband on Aug. 14 to begin a two-year study for her book about Egypt’s Coptic Christians. After witnessing the continued riots and hostility portrayed by Morsi loyalists towards Christians and security forces, El-Faizy decided to evacuate her two children to Rome, Italy temporarily until the country becomes more stable.
El-Faizy wrote in a blog for Today.com that she and her family had just moved to Cairo a little over a week ago, and were hoping to wait out the civil unrest, as they were just transitioning from a hotel to a house and were hoping to be fully settled. The mother of two writes in the blog post that although she did not see violence firsthand, continual news reports of mosque attacks and the announcement that her children’s school was pushing back its school year start date due to the unrest encouraged her to temporarily leave the country. Additionally, many companies in Cairo had ordered employees and their families to evacuate the city.
The author writes that after successfully finding mattresses for their new home in spite of the 7 p.m. curfew enforced by the country’s interim security forces, she was hoping she would feel more settled in their new home, “but too many of the people I met said their companies had ordered their families out.”
“The night before, a friend with a journalist husband told me he’d been disturbed enough by what he’d seen on the streets to want her to get out with the kids for a while, too. I’d been consoling myself with the argument that the school administration, who had been getting daily security updates, was still sending email messages saying they were starting on time – until that night, when they sent an email saying they weren’t. That was the straw that, ahem, broke the camel’s back,” El-Faizy wrote.
After a hectic journey on the congested roadways leading to the airport, El-Faizy and her two boys safely boarded an EgyptAir flight for Rome, planning to stay at a friend’s beachside house for the next few days. El-Faizy’s husband, Oliver, stayed behind in Cairo to prepare the home. Although their initial accommodation plans fell through, El-Faizy managed to book a hotel in Rome for the next few days.
“And let’s be honest. There are far worse places to be homeless than in this eternally beautiful city,” El-Faizy wrote.
El-Faizy has been chronicling her arrival in Cairo on her personal blog since Aug. 14. On that date, she wrote of her family’s arrival in the North African country and how in spite of unrest in downtown Cairo, they managed to navigate their way toward a hotel on the outskirts of the city before curfew fell. El-Faizy’s husband, also a journalist, reportedly knew the British cameraman, Mick Deane, who was shot and killed in Cairo last Wednesday while covering the protests.
Since Morsi’s ousting from the presidency in early July, Egypt has been in a growing state of turmoil. Tensions reached a head last Wednesday when Morsi loyalists, staging sit-in camps in Cairo, were ordered to disperse by security forces that used bulldozers and gunfire against protesters when they refused to cooperate. Later, witnesses claimed security forces flooded the al-Fatah mosque in Cairo’s Ramses Square, where dozens of pro-Morsi protesters had gathered.
Varying death toll reports indicate hundreds of Egyptian citizens have been killed in the protests, as well as 38 Muslim Brotherhood prisoners who were reportedly shot dead by security forces in Cairo, according to ABC News. Additionally, the minority Christian population in the country has been suffering violent harassment by radical Islamists who have scapegoated Copts for the ousting of Morsi. According to the Maspero Youth Union, 38 churches have been burned throughout the country, as well as another 23 damaged due to vandalism. Additionally, several Christians have been killed in the violence, with widespread complaints that authoritiea are providing little or no protection for them.
The European Union has threatened to cut off aid to Egypt if the violence continues, but the country’s interim government, which took over after Morsi left power, has argued that the conflict is an internal affair and should not affect international relations. The European Union on Wednesday decided to suspend arms exports to Egypt, but did not touch aid programs.
37 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN EGYPT, AUTHORITIES DO ‘LITTLE OR NOTHING,’ ACCORDING TO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Extremity of the bloodshed against Egypt’s Coptic Christians Revealed in New HRW Report
By Morgan Lee , CP Contributor
August 23, 2013|9:59 am
A new report from Human Rights Watch has revealed the extremity of the bloodshed against Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Since Aug. 14, 37 churches have been either destroyed or badly damaged, and at least five others were attacked, leaving at least four people dead. In addition, scores of Christian businesses and schools have been looted, vandalized and torched.
But the egregiousness nature of these actions is only matched by the lack of response by Egyptian authorities themselves, said Joe Stork, the acting Human Rights Watch Middle East Director.
Since the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi, Coptic Christians have endured vandalism, destruction and murder with little or no police protection and assistance.
“For weeks, everyone could see these attacks coming, with Muslim Brotherhood members accusing Coptic Christians of a role in Mohammad Morsy’s ouster, but the authorities did little or nothing to prevent them. Now dozens of churches are smoldering ruins, and Christians throughout the country are hiding in their homes, afraid for their very lives,” said Joe Stork in a statement.
Tamara Alrifai, the Human Rights Watch Advocacy and Communications director for the Middle East and North Africa Division, explained that before last week’s confrontation between the military and pro-Morsi supporters, there were signs that the Copts would be targeted.
“Over the past few weeks there has been an incitement discourse against Christians from political leadership and there have not been enough measures taken by police and security,” Alfirai told The Christian Post. “The attacks seemed inevitable. The government is responsible for protecting its own population when the signs are clear.”
In some instances, the threats that the Copts’ aggressors utilized were blatant; in the city of Minya, residents told Human Rights Watch that Coptic-owned storefronts had been marked with a black “X” and they were subsequently targeted for attack.
Indeed, Human Rights Watch asserted that “in the vast majority of the 42 cases [we] documented, neither the police nor the military were present at the start or during the attack,” suggesting that the passivity of the security forces served to embolden and encourage acts of terror.
In many instances, individuals notified security officials, only for them to be dismissed. In one situation, a resident begged a police officer to help him defend his business, only for the officer to refuse to leave, saying he was only charged with protecting his station.
John Sameer of Minya told Human Rights Watch he witnessed a crowd vandalizing and burning a church before following a gang of men who performed the same on “approximately 20 shops, three other churches, the Coptic boys’ school complex, the Saint Joseph’s girls’ school, the Gunud al-Maseeh orphanage, and the Jesuit community center.”
Despite calls for to emergency vehicles, Sameer said that security never arrived.
However, Human Rights Watch also documented some episodes of violence against security forces in the same towns that Copts were attacked.
In Minya, the same town that Sameer watched gangs torch businesses, schools and churches, Major General Abdelaziz Qura, head of the Minya security directorate, told Human Rights Watch that on Aug. 14, when news of the sit-in dispersal reached the city, “groups simultaneously attacked police stations and some churches in Minya. They were shooting live fire at security forces, and the security forces did not leave their positions because they didn’t want anyone to free the prisoners [held in police stations], like what happened in January 2011.”
The group also burned six police stations to the ground and killed 13 police officers.
Human Rights Watch hopes that their documentation motivates the international community to pressure Egyptian authorities to clamp down on the violence against the Copts.
“The international community does have a responsibility to curb violence altogether [but] there must also be a strong message against incitement to violence and hatred of the others,” said Alrifai. “The Copts are part and parcel of Egyptian society. They should be treated as equal citizens under law, equal to everyone else. They belong to Egypt as every other Egyptian and there should not be a way forward in Egypt without them.”
ISLAMIC LEADERS URGE EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS TO PROTECT CHRISTIANS FACING VIOLENCE
August 21, 2013|5:04 pm
The Russian Association of Islamic Accord, which is also known as the All-Russian Muslim Board, has called on Egyptians to protect the country’s Christian population.
Mufti Farid Salman, head of the Ulema Council of the association, called on the Egyptian Muslim population to maintain the safety of churches in the country, to protect Muslim and Christian clergy and to “severely punish the extremists who sowed the seeds of chaos and revolt,” according to Interfax independent news group.
“It is unacceptable to tolerate the continuation of this orgy of Saran followers, who have burned down several dozens of churches and have looted monasteries in the past few days in an attempt to further fan the flames of this fratricidal war, cease the efforts of those to desecrate, destroy and loot numerous mosques and madrasahs [religious schools],” the mufti continued in a statement.
He accused the Muslim Brotherhood of using religious language to “open the gates of chaos and disasters.” He said the recent violence in the modern histories of Syria, the Palestinian territories; Sudan, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt all demonstrate the destructive impact of the Brotherhood on societies.
Salman added he hopes the Brotherhood is never removed from Russia’s list of banned organizations.
The mufti pointed out that Copts once “opened the gates of Egypt to Islam and Muslims,” and thus Allah ordered Muslims to be a vanguard for the country and its people.
“We urge the brave Muslim sons of Egypt to always remember that Almighty Allah put you in charge of this blessed land and that you bear the responsibility for its residents, especially the Copts,” he said.
CHRISTIANS: ON THE FRONT LINES OF MUSLIM VIOLENCE
By Noah Beck, CP Op-Ed Contributor
August 20, 2013|11:04 am
As Egypt’s Islamists blame Christians for the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, anti-Christian violence has reached epidemic levels, with an estimated 82 churches across Egypt attacked and heavily damaged by pro-Morsi supporters in a mere 48 hours.
Unfortunately, the persecution of Christians is nothing new in Egypt or other Muslim-majority countries. But thanks to the mainstream media, few Westerners understand the true scale or nature of the horrors involved.
As you read this, Christians around the world are being murdered, raped, plundered, abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, or otherwise oppressed by Muslims. Christians in Muslim-majority areas are some of the most vulnerable and horribly oppressed people on earth; they live at the mercy of the mob and receive little or no protection from the police or other government institutions.
The reach of this silent tragedy is sweeping – a global religious genocide on “slow burn” with occasional conflagrations that make it into the mainstream media. There are an estimated 100 million persecuted Christians.
This massive crime is documented in shocking and painstaking detail in Raymond Ibrahim’s new book Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. The book is required reading for anyone who cares about religious freedom, human rights, and/or the survival of Christians in their ancestral lands.
In Crucified Again, Ibrahim methodically presents overwhelming evidence of Muslim persecution of Christians (documented with about 700 footnotes). His exhaustive, scholarly, and compelling study uses many news and historical sources, and statements by contemporary Muslim clerics. The evidentiary details are far too numerous to summarize here, but a few examples stand out.
Ibrahim explains the theological basis for Muslim persecution of Christians. He notes the Islamic belief that Koranic verses from later in Muhammad’s career abrogate contradictory verses from earlier. The hostile verses naming Christians “infidels” occur towards the end of his career, so they override any tolerance for Christians in earlier verses. Ibrahim writes: “The Koran’s final word on the fate of Christians and Jews is found in Koran 9:29 [where] Allah commands believers, [to fight them]…’until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.'”
Ibrahim cites the writing of renowned Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun [1332-1406]:
[Jihad] is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force … The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them…But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.
Ibrahim explains: “The Conditions of Omar…[details] exactly how [Christians and Jews] are to feel themselves subdued.” The laws applicable to “dhimmis” (non-Muslims treated as second-class citizens under Islamic hegemony) made life so miserable for Christians over the millennia that these rules gradually transformed thousands of miles of formerly Christian territory into what is today the “Arab world.” Ibrahim also highlights a tragic historical absurdity: many of the Muslims persecuting Christians today are themselves descendants of Christians who converted because of persecution.
Having established the theological basis for Muslim oppression of Christians, Ibrahim reviews the endless historical examples of these crimes. He cites one medieval Muslim historian reporting that “30,000 churches were burned or pillaged in Egypt and Syria alone” in just two years. During the Abbasid rule (in 936), “the Muslims in Jerusalem…burnt down the Church of the Resurrection [believed to be built atop the tomb of Christ].” Ibrahim notes the “1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans and the subsequent attack on…the Hagia Sophia and its transformation into a mosque.”
After reviewing the more notable examples from history, Ibrahim catalogs the extent to which such Muslim persecution of Christians continues today across the entire Muslim world, “from Afghanistan to Zanzibar” – regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, or language. Crucified Again details how these anti-Christian crimes are often incited by governments and/or religious leaders of Muslim countries. Ibrahim “broke news” in 2012 merely by translating into English that Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority declared it “necessary to destroy all the churches” in the Arabian Peninsula. The shocking statement by Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, was widely reported by Arabic-language media, but the Western mainstream media avoided coverage of the outrage. As Ibrahim argues, the media willfully ignore such news because it contradicts their narrative that all Muslim violence is motivated by some socio-economic or political grievance.
But the West risks its own demise by ignoring four truths: 1) a hateful, absolutist ideology drives Islamist violence against non-Muslims, 2) Sharia’s draconian penalties for apostasy and blasphemy maximize Muslim demographic growth because nobody can safely criticize or leave Islam (including those converted under duress), 3) Sharia destroys the rights and freedoms cherished by the West, 4) Sharia creates a Muslim monopoly on the marketplace of ideas – something antithetical to any free society. To survive, the West cannot let Sharia laws take root in Muslim-majority communities of Europe and North America.
With documented examples, Crucified Again also debunks the myth of the “moderate” Muslim state. So-called “moderate” states like Turkey or the Maldives may not be as atrociously violent towards their Christian minorities as countries like Pakistan, Iraq, or Egypt, but they follow the same patterns of anti-Christian persecution and are far from Western standards when it comes to treating their non-Muslim minorities with equal rights, justice, and dignity.
Ibrahim has argued elsewhere that the Koran’s violent verses, unlike “their Old Testament counterparts…[use] language that transcends time and space, inciting believers to…slay nonbelievers today no less than yesterday.” According to Ibrahim, Old Testament violent verses are fundamentally different because they are merely a descriptive account of historical incidents – not a prescriptive exhortation to attack non-believers in the future.
Ibrahim shows how the Western media, academia, and the Obama administration have all whitewashed Muslim oppression of Christians and/or supported Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood to the point of enabling anti-Christian persecution and obscuring it from the public. Indeed, of Ibrahim’s 680+ cited news sources reporting on Muslim abuse of Christians, only about 6 percent were from the mainstream media. Biased media coverage of the Middle East deserves a book of its own, but to cite one powerful example (not mentioned in Crucified Again), consider how CBS’s “news” program, Sixty Minutes, defamed the only Mideast country where Christians are actually safe (Israel) while missing the real story of Mideast Christian persecution so thoroughly documented in Crucified Again.
Western passivity over the maltreatment of minority Christians has only encouraged Islamists to attack them for any perceived wrong by the West – whether it’s offensive cartoons, movies, or any other grievance. Worse, the apathetic West has forgotten that the Islamic prohibitions (against apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism) used to justify Muslim oppression of Christians completely negate Western values like freedom of speech and religion.
Ibrahim elsewhere makes an excellent point about Muslim animus towards Israel: “if grievances…were really about justice and displaced Palestinians, Muslims – and their Western appeasers – would be aggrieved by the fact that millions of Christians are currently being displaced by Muslim invaders.” The truer explanation for Muslim hostility towards Israel is that it’s the only non-Muslim state in the entire Middle East and North Africa. As long as Israel thrives as a strong, non-Muslim state, the Islamist mission of global jihad has failed in that region where Muslims are strongest. But if Israel were ever to fall, one can only imagine the genocide that would descend upon Israeli Jews – and the Israeli religious minorities sheltered in Israel (Christians, Bahais, etc.).
Despite the grim signs for the West, it’s worth noting that there is a tiny but brave reform movement within Islam that should be robustly supported. Courageous humanists like Irshad Manji, who questions received doctrines with critical-thinking and a preference for tolerance over conquest, are the best hope for a reformed Islam that builds on its virtues, fixes its problems, and is at peace with itself (regarding the Sunni-Shia divide) and the non-Muslim world. Of course, anyone who reads Crucified Again will be unsurprised that Irshad Manji lives in the West.
EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS ARE FACING JIHAD
By Nina Shea, CP Op-Ed Contributor
August 20, 2013|10:49 am
Violent aggression by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, including those sympathetic to al-Qaeda, continues to be directed at one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, following the military’s break up last week of Brotherhood sit-ins. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been inciting the anti-Christian pogroms on its web and Facebook pages. One such page, posted on August 14, lists a bill of particulars against the Christian Coptic minority, blaming it, and only it, for the military’s crackdown against the Brotherhood, alleging that the Church has declared a “war against Islam and Muslims.” It concludes with the threat, “For every action there is a reaction.” This builds on statements in the article “The Military Republic of [Coptic Pope] Tawadros,” carried on the MB website in July, about the Coptic Church wanting to “humiliate” Muslims and eradicate Islam.
The litany of attacks is long: St. George Church, St. Mary’s Church, Good Shepherd’s Church, the Pentecostal Church, in Minya; St. Therese Church, Church of the Reformation, Church of the Apostle, Holy Revival Church, St. John’s Church, in Assiut; Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo, St. Damiana Church, the Evangelical Church, and Joseph’s Church, in Fayoum; Church of the Archangel Michael, St. Saviors Anglican Church, the Greek Orthodox and Franciscan churches, in Suez; Fr. Maximus Church and St. George’s Church, in Alexandria. . .
As of Sunday night, some 58 churches, as well as several convents, monasteries, and schools, dozens of Christian homes and businesses, even the YMCA, have been documented as looted and burned or subject to other destruction by Islamist rioters. The Coptic Pope remains in hiding and many Sunday services did not take place as Christian worshipers stayed home, fearing for their lives. A dozen or so Christians have been attacked and killed for being Christian so far.
For the first time in 1,600 years, Sunday prayers were canceled at the Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram in Degla, south of Minya, because the three churches there were destroyed by the mob. In Cairo, Franciscan nuns watched as the cross over the gate to their school was torn down and replaced by an al-Qaeda flag and the school itself torched; Sister Manal, the principal, reported that three nuns were then marched through the streets as prisoners of war, as neighborhood mobs “hurled abuse” at them along the way.
Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman of Egypt’s Catholic Bishops reported to the Vatican news agency Fides that of the destroyed churches, 14 are Catholic, while the rest belong to the Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant communities. While the anti-Christian attacks are occurring throughout Egypt, they are concentrated especially in the areas of Al Minya and Assiut, “because it is there that we find the headquarters of the jihadists,” according to Fr. Greiche.
Groups of the Left, of women, of students, of intellectuals, of businesspersons, of secularists, not to mention the military, all participated in the Tamarrud movement that supported the military’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated President Morsi. But it is Egypt’s Christian community, who number 10 percent of the population that is bearing the brunt of the Islamist anger. Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and joined by various other Islamist groups, some hoisting al-Qaeda flags, a ruthless campaign of religious cleansing, of Islamic “purification,” is well underway in Egypt. As jihad has come to the Arab world’s largest country, our foreign-policy leaders and press ignore this turn of events at our peril.
JERUSALEM RELIGIOUS LEADER PRAISES CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM EGYPTIANS FIGHTING TERRORISTS
August 21, 2013|5:19 pm
Patriarchs and heads of churches from all over Jerusalem have praised those in Egypt who are facing violence and bloodshed but have maintained their faith and spoken out against the violence. They are now calling on both Muslims and Christians to unite in opposition of terrorists inciting violence throughout the nation.
“We are following the situation in Egypt, where unprecedented violence and terrorism has wages and a large number of soldiers in Egypt have been murdered, as well as the targeting of churches,” according to a statement issued today.
“We appreciate the stance shown by many Muslim citizens protecting their Christian brethren, aiding them in defending churches and public institutions, calling for the perpetrators to abide by the values of tolerance.”
The leaders also addressed the dangerous situation ongoing in Egypt and urged other world leaders to lend assistance to end the violence.
“We, the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem, look to Egypt with feelings of remorse, as we witness the division and intentional violence taking place, in addition to the acts of terrorism that have claimed that lives of many innocent people.”
They called the international community to take a stand against violence and terrorism, supporting the Egyptian people in overcoming their ordeal.
The statement also condemned “the division at risk in Egypt, and all the manifestations of violence,” and added, “We call the advocates of violence to return to Egypt and its values, to keep everyone safe.”
The patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem announced their support of their Egyptian people, during their struggle with division and terrorism.
EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS URGE SCRUTINY OF ATTACKS
Baptist Press | Aug 23, 2013
CAIRO (BP) — Though Islamists have destroyed between 55 and 80 Egyptian churches, reports suggest public support may be turning against the Muslim Brotherhood, the main group responsible for inciting anti-Christian violence.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has lost all sympathy with their points due to their violence,” a Long Island, N.Y., Egyptian American who is in Cairo for a family wedding told Fox News.
Meanwhile media watchdogs have called for western journalists to focus more attention on the plight of Egypt’s Christians. From Aug. 15-21, the three U.S. broadcast networks’ morning and evening news programs devoted less than six minutes to anti-Christian attacks out of the one hour, 54 minutes they spent on Egypt coverage, according to a NewsBusters report.
Since the Egyptian military removed President Mohammed Morsi from power following an outcry against his rule by many Egyptians, enraged supporters of the former president and the Muslim Brotherhood have been locked in a showdown with the military. Amid the furor, Christians are paying a heavy price, with some members of the Muslim Brotherhood placing exclusive blame on them for the military’s violent crackdown. Christians comprise only 10 percent of Egypt’s population and were joined by students, intellectuals, businesspeople, secularists and others in their opposition of Morsi.
The Egyptian military deployed Friday (Aug. 23) in anticipation of a new wave of protests by the Brotherhood and other Morsi supporters a day after deposed president Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and placed under house arrest in a military hospital in Cairo, the Associated Press reported. Nearly 80 Brotherhood members were arrested Aug. 22.
Along with blaming Christians, the Muslim Brotherhood has called for retribution. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, for instance, posted a webpage claiming Egypt’s Coptic Church declared “a war against Islam and Muslims.” The page ended with the threat, “For every action there is a reaction.” A July article on the Muslim Brotherhood website carried the headline “The Military Republic of Tawadros” and charged the Coptic Church with seeking to “humiliate” Muslims and eradicate Islam.
Responding to calls for retribution, groups of men marked Christian-owned businesses with black X’s and mobs later attacked those businesses, Human Rights Watch reported. However, recent reports also noted Muslims and Christians standing together to protect churches and mosques, an indication that the attempt to blame Christians for national unrest may be failing.
“I am Muslim and I am against terrorism and I support the revolution ,” an Egyptian woman named Nina told Fox News, “and I support all the decisions of the Egyptian army forces. We love Egypt so much and we hope the foreign countries stop misunderstanding about us and the situation now in Egypt.”
Even at some mosques, sentiment seems to be turning against the Brotherhood, a man in Cairo told Fox News.
“They gather around mosques, from five to 100 of them, to show they are important and the goal is to go out and cut off the roads and rally to get more supporters,” the man said of Islamists. “Sometimes during Friday prayers, the sheikh wants to push people to support the Muslim Brotherhood, but modern Muslims are dominant and not deceived anymore with fake words that defending the Muslim Brotherhood is defending Islam.”
Still, the anti-Christian violence has been brutal. Among the church buildings destroyed are two belonging to Baptist congregations: Minya Baptist Church 150 miles south of Cairo in Minya, a city of 200,000, and Beni Mazar Baptist Church in the province of Minya.
“In reflecting on this tragedy, the Father has convicted me that I hear this kind of news all too casually,” said Hugh Carson, pastor of Renewal Church in Greenville, S.C., who ministered at Beni Mazar Baptist Church in 2011 as part of a partnership between Egyptian Baptists and the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “But this story coming out of Egypt is different because it involves a church that I know — people, names, faces that are real to me.”
In Bani Suef, a city 75 miles south of Cairo, a mob attacked and burned a Franciscan girls school then forced three nuns to parade through the streets as verbal abuse was heaped on them, according to Human Rights Watch. Police deterred the attackers initially but left after a nearby police station came under attack.
In many cases police have been unable to protect Christian-owned buildings due to their inability to deploy at full strength without military assistance, Human Rights Watch reported.
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt posted on its website Aug. 21 a list of destroyed Christian properties: 32 churches that have been “robbed, looted and fully burned”; 19 churches that have been “partially attacked by throwing stones, Molotov Cocktails and gunfire”; five Coptic schools “that have been completely burned”; seven “church establishments that have been burned completely”; and 190 businesses “owned by Copts that have been robbed, looted and then burned completely.”
The Coptic Orthodox Church, headed by Pope Tawadros II, is a denomination that separated from the rest of Christendom in the fifth century when it rejected the Council of Chalcedon’s statement that Jesus has a divine nature and a human nature united in one person. Churches and institutions of other denominations have been targeted as well.
The Coptic Church said in a statement that it “values the stance of the friendly and loyal countries who understand the nature” of the attacks. But the church denounced “the fallacies broadcasted by the western media” and called journalists “to review the facts objectively regarding these bloody radical organizations and their affiliates instead of legitimizing them with global support and political protection while they attempt to spread devastation and destruction in our dear land” — apparently a reference to the underreporting of violence targeting Christians.
As of Aug. 21, ABC and NBC each had aired one report on anti-Christian violence, according to NewsBusters. CBS dedicated only 15 seconds to the subject in a passing reference on “CBS Morning News.”
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, wrote in National Review that the violence is “jihad.”
“Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and joined by various other Islamist groups, some hoisting al-Qaeda flags, a ruthless campaign of religious cleansing, of Islamic ‘purification,’ is well underway in Egypt,” Shea wrote. “As jihad has come to the Arab world’s largest country, our foreign-policy leaders and press ignore this turn of events at our peril.”
Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian scholar who serves as research fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, said he is skeptical that the Muslim Brotherhood will ever change its hostile attitude toward Christians.
“Anti-Christian sentiments are at the heart of the Brotherhood’s worldview,” Tadros told National Review. “When Hassan El Banna established this movement in 1928, fighting foreign missionaries was on the top of his agenda. The Brotherhood continues to use the most hateful language against Copts.”
In a commentary for BreakPoint, evangelical speaker and author John Stonestreet said Egypt has been an important site for Christianity ever since Jesus went there as a child to escape the murderous plot of King Herod, six centuries before the founding of Islam. The Brotherhood wants to eradicate Christians from Egypt, he wrote, adding, “If they succeed it will be in part of because Christians in the West did nothing.”
“Call or email your representative in Congress,” Stonestreet wrote. “Contact your Senators. And the White House. The U.S. must speak out and condemn the targeting and murder of Egyptian Christians.”
David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net
EGYPT: ISLAMISTS HIT CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
CAIRO (AP) — 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 activism.
Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 percent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt’s military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi’s reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide.
One of the world’s oldest Christian communities has generally kept a low-profile, but has become more politically active since Mubarak was ousted and Christians sought to ensure fair treatment in the aftermath.
Many Morsi supporters say Christians played a disproportionately large role in the days of mass rallies, with millions demanding that he step down ahead of the coup.
Despite the violence, Egypt’s Coptic Christian church renewed its commitment to the new political order Friday, saying in a statement that it stood by the army and the police in their fight against “the armed violent groups and black terrorism.”
While the Christians of Egypt have endured attacks by extremists, they have drawn closer to moderate Muslims in some places, in a rare show of solidarity.
Hundreds from both communities thronged two monasteries in the province of Bani Suef south of Cairo to thwart what they had expected to be imminent attacks on Saturday, local activist Girgis Waheeb said. Activists reported similar examples elsewhere in regions south of Cairo, but not enough to provide effective protection of churches and monasteries.
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.
Another Christian activist, Ezzat Ibrahim of Minya, a province also south of Cairo where Christians make up around 35 percent of the population, said police have melted away from seven of the region’s nine districts, leaving the extremists to act with near impunity.
Two Christians have been killed since Wednesday, including a taxi driver who strayed into a protest by Morsi supporters in Alexandria and another man who was shot to death by Islamists in the southern province of Sohag, according to security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
The attacks served as a reminder that Islamists, while on the defensive in Cairo, maintain influence and the ability to stage violence in provincial strongholds with a large minority of Christians.
Gamaa Islamiya, the hard-line Islamist group that wields considerable influence in provinces south of Cairo, denied any link to the attacks. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has led the defiant protest against Morsi’s ouster, has condemned the attacks, spokesman Mourad Ali said.
Sister Manal is the principal of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef. She was having breakfast with two visiting nuns when news broke of the clearance of the two sit-in camps by police, killing hundreds. In an ordeal that lasted about six hours, she, sisters Abeer and Demiana and a handful of school employees saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaida.
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.
The Islamists gave her just enough time to grab some clothes.
In an hourlong telephone interview with The Associated Press, Manal, 47, recounted her ordeal while trapped at the school with others as the fire raged in the ground floor and a battle between police and Islamists went on out on the street. At times she was overwhelmed by the toxic fumes from the fire in the library or the whiffs of tears gas used by the police outside.
Sister Manal recalled being told a week earlier by the policeman father of one pupil that her school was targeted by hard-line Islamists convinced that it was giving an inappropriate education to Muslim children. She paid no attention, comfortable in the belief that a school that had an equal number of Muslim and Christian pupils could not be targeted by Muslim extremists. She was wrong.
The school has a high-profile location. It is across the road from the main railway station and adjacent to a busy bus terminal that in recent weeks attracted a large number of Islamists headed to Cairo to join the larger of two sit-in camps by Morsi’s supporters. The area of the school is also in one of Bani Suef’s main bastions of Islamists from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis.
“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.
“I remembered her, her name is Saadiyah. She offered to take us in and said she can protect us since her son-in-law was a policeman. We accepted her offer,” she said. Two Christian women employed by the school, siblings Wardah and Bedour, had to fight their way out of the mob, while groped, hit and insulted by the extremists. “I looked at that and it was very nasty,” said Manal.
The incident at the Franciscan school was repeated at Minya where a Catholic school was razed to the ground by an arson attack and a Christian orphanage was also torched.
“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,” he said Saturday.
Bishoy Alfons Naguib, a 33-year-old businessman from Minya, has a similarly harrowing story.
His home supplies store on a main commercial street in the provincial capital, also called Minya, was torched this week and the flames consumed everything inside.
“A neighbor called me and said the store was on fire. When I arrived, three extremists with knifes approached me menacingly when they realized I was the owner,” recounted Naguib. His father and brother pleaded with the men to spare him. Luckily, he said, someone shouted that a Christian boy was filming the proceedings using his cell phone, so the crowd rushed toward the boy shouting “Nusrani, Nusrani,” the Quranic word for Christians which has become a derogatory way of referring to them in today’s Egypt.
Naguib ran up a nearby building where he has an apartment and locked himself in. After waiting there for a while, he left the apartment, ran up to the roof and jumped to the next door building, then exited at a safe distance from the crowd.
“On our Mustafa Fahmy street, the Islamists had earlier painted a red X on Muslim stores and a black X on Christian stores,” he said. “You can be sure that the ones with a red X are intact.”
In Fayoum, an oasis province southwest of Cairo, Islamists looted and torched five churches, according to Bishop Ibram, the local head of the Coptic Orthodox church, by far the largest of Egypt’s Christian denominations. He said he had instructed Christians and clerics alike not to try to resist the mobs of Islamists, fearing any loss of life.
“The looters were so diligent that they came back to one of the five churches they had ransacked to see if they can get more,” he told the AP. “They were loading our chairs and benches on trucks and when they had no space for more, they destroyed them.”
IN EGYPTIAN VILLAGE, CHRISTIAN SHOPS MARKED AHEAD OF CHURCH ATTACK
The Saint Virgin Mary Church in Al Nazla is one of 47 churches and monasteries that have been burned, robbed, or attacked in a new wave of violence against Christians in Egypt.
Kristen Chick – August 18, 2013
Before the violence that shook this small village last week, there were warning signs.
On June 30, when millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against now ousted President Mohamed Morsi, residents of Al Nazla marked Christian homes and shops with red graffiti, vowing to protect Morsi’s electoral legitimacy with “blood.”
Relations between Christians and Muslims in the village, which had worsened since Morsi’s election in 2012, grew even more tense as Islamists spread rumors that it was Christians who were behind the protests against Morsi and his ouster by the military on July 3.
Finally, on the morning of Aug. 14, the tension erupted. In Cairo, the police attacked two protest camps full of Morsi supporters, using live ammunition and killing hundreds. When the news reached Al Nazla, a local mosque broadcast through its loudspeakers that Christians were attacking the protesters, say residents. Hundreds of villagers marched on the Saint Virgin Mary Church. They broke down the gate and flooded the compound, shouting “Allahu akbar” and “Islam is the solution,” according to Christian neighbors.
“First they stole the valuable things, and then they torched the place,” says Sami Awad, a church member who lives across the narrow dirt alley from the church. “Whatever they couldn’t carry, they burned.”
The Coptic Orthodox church had just opened in April after 13 years of construction, in a country where the government strictly curtails building permits for churches. Now, its elaborate dome stands above a ruined, charred interior. The walls are blackened and rubble litters the floor. A picture of Jesus is half burned, the charred edges curling where they were licked by flames.
“The religion of God is Islam,” reads graffiti sprayed in yellow on a wall of the church. Three burned out cars, one of them upside down, rest in the courtyard. Next to the gate, sprayed in black, is another phrase: “Victory or martyrdom.”
The Saint Virgin Mary church in Al Nazla is one of 47 churches and monasteries that have been burned, robbed, or attacked since Aug. 14 in a wave of violence against Christians since the brutal police crackdown on the former president’s supporters, according to Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. He adds that dozens of Christian schools, other religious buildings, homes and shops have also been attacked and burned, and seven Christians killed. Police have done little to stop the attacks.
The victims say the attackers are Morsi supporters angered by the deaths in Cairo, and spurred on by Islamist rhetoric blaming Christians for Morsi’s ouster. The attacks are a realization of the long-held fears of many Christians and have prompted deep worry about widening religious violence in Egypt.
RED MARKS STILL VISIBLE
Al Nazla – about 60 miles southwest of Cairo near the oasis of Fayoum – is a small village that looks like many other rural Egyptian towns. Narrow and pitted dirt roads winding between brick buildings are clogged by three-wheeled tok-toks, animals, and villagers on foot. The red graffiti marking Christian homes and shops is still visible. “Yes to legitimacy, no to Sisi” reads the message scrawled on one shop, referring to Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who ousted Morsi.
The Saint Virgin Mary church’s dome is visible from outside the village, but difficult to see once inside the tangle of alleyways. Inside the church compound, Mr. Awad and other church members described the shock of seeing their neighbors and acquaintances among the angry mob sacking the church.
Relations between Christians and Muslims in the village used to be good, says Awad, who makes his living selling poultry. “We were neighbors and friends, we did business together and talked together. However, when they had to choose between religion and us, they chose religion.” He declined to identify those who attacked the church.
Ezzat Labib, who manages the church’s administration, says things started changing after Morsi was elected last year. “Relationships started becoming more cautious,” he says. “By June 30, it started getting much more tense, because of the accusations that June 30 was controlled and ignited by Copts, even though on the 30th , all people were protesting, Muslims and Christians.”
Islamist figures and websites had accused anti-Morsi protests of being mostly Christian as far back as December. When the mass protests that appeared on June 30 presented an emphatic rejection of Morsi’s year-long presidency, some accused Christians of organizing the protests and making up the bulk of the demonstrators. Such statements only increased when Pope Tawadros II, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, stood next to General Sisi, with other religious and political leaders, when the army general announced Morsi’s ouster.
At the camp of Morsi supporters near Cairo’s Rabaa El Adawiya square, organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, some speakers on the protests’s stage railed against Christians and their “betrayal” of Egypt. Attacks against Christians spread throughout Egypt, particularly in southern Egypt where the Christian population is large and sectarian violence common. On August 7, 16 Egyptian rights organizations condemned the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies for using rhetoric that included “clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains.” The groups also condemned the government and security forces for failing to protect against sectarian attacks or hold accountable those responsible.
On the morning of the attack in Al Nazla, says Awad, a local mosque broadcast a message around 9 am. “Your brothers in Rabaa El Adawiya are being killed by Jews and Christians,” the loudspeakers boomed, according to Awad and other Christian residents. The crowds attacked the police station before attacking the church, say residents, possibly part of the reason the police did nothing to stop the attack that lasted from around 9:30 am until 7 pm. The attackers even brought trucks to carry away their loot. The police guards that had been posted outside the church walked away when the angry crowds approached, say neighbors. One fire truck that tried to approach the church was repelled by the crowd, and the police never came.
Some Muslim neighbors tried to help put out the fire raging in the church, including Magdy Shaaban. They also successfully protected against attempts to break into or set fire to Christian homes and shops, but near the church, “there were so many attackers, we couldn’t stand against them,” he says.
As the Muslim call to prayer rang out near a monastery that was also looted and torched, Mr. Shaaban says villagers were angered by the Coptic pope’s support for the military and Morsi’s ouster. The attacks occurred when villagers attempting to join the Morsi supporters in Cairo found the roads closed, and turned back to attack the police station and the churches instead, he says. “They went to take revenge on the Christians.”
Shaaban voted for Morsi, and went to Rabaa el Adawiya several times to join the protest against his ouster. He said the attackers were not Muslim Brotherhood members, but “angry people.” He condemned the violence, and helped his neighbors, even allowing two Christian families to sleep at his house after the attacks, because “it’s my duty to protect my neighbors.”
ATTACKS AROUND COUNTRY
Similar attacks occurred across the country. In Sohag, a large church was burned and a guard outside a church shot. Attackers stopped a Christian couple, asked for their national identity cards, which list citizens’ religion, and then shot the two, says Mr. Ibrahim. The husband was killed, and the wife injured. In Minya and Assiut, multiple churches and dozens of Christian properties were attacked and burned. In many places, police stations were also attacked. A spokesman for the foreign ministry last week cited attacks on police stations as the reason that police failed to respond and protect churches and Christian institutions from attacks.
Ibrahim said there were indications that the violence was somewhat organized. With the exception of Al Nazla and other Fayoum villages, it took place mostly in cities, he says, and in most cases, police stations were attacked before churches. In the Minya province, after an incident of religious violence earlier this month, a local Gamaa Islamiya leader delivered a “threat cloaked in a warning” to Ibrahim about the reaction of Islamists if Rabaa was dispersed.
The government has implicitly accused the Muslim Brotherhood of organizing the violence, which the Brotherhood strongly denies. A spokesman for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said in a statement last week that the party “stands firmly against any attack – even verbal – against churches.” Brotherhood members and a spokesman have accused the security apparatus of carrying out the church attacks in an attempt to smear Islamists.
The Brotherhood said Facebook pages inciting religious violence under the party’s name were fake. One page that appears to be the authentic Facebook page for the FJP in Helwan, south of Cairo, listed accusations against the church, before concluding: “After all this people ask why they burn churches.” The page noted that “burning houses of worship is a crime,” but added: “For every action, there is a reaction.”
Back in Al Nazla, church members said they held a service today despite the state of the sanctuary, and will continue to do so until they can rebuild the church. “We have to pray no matter what happens,” says Mr. Labib. “Even if they burn it to the ground, we will pray here.”
CAIRO ERUPTS INTO VIOLENCE AS SECURITY CRUSHES PROTEST CAMP
At least 149 people were killed in Cairo when authorities broke up a pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest. The operation touched off attacks across the country.
Kristen Chick – August 14, 2013
Security forces attacked two protest camps full of supporters of the ousted president early this morning, killing dozens of people and sending Egypt into a fresh spiral of violence. Attacks on churches and police stations, as well as violent clashes between citizens and police, spread throughout Egypt.
The military-backed interim government declared a state of emergency and evening curfew as the death toll, more than 149 people by the afternoon, rose. Clashes continued at the largest protest camp and elsewhere in the capital and Egypt through late in the day.
The police crackdown and the wave of violence following it, including multiple attacks on Christians, marks a turn toward a dangerous new chapter of the political crisis that has been simmering since the military deposed former President Mohamed Morsi last month.
“They want to finish this demonstration that is supporting the legitimate president Mohamed Morsi,” said Ahmed el Hawary, a Morsi supporter who was trying to block police from passing near the site of the main protest camp this morning. Gunfire echoed and a huge plume of smoke rose from the site, as he continued, “They will succeed in finishing this but we’re expecting civil war in Egypt, in every place, between the army and police and the people.”
The decision to disperse the protests has opened myriad new challenges for the military and interim government . The wave of attacks across the country, and the pressure the interim government is likely to be under for the crackdown, is expected to alter the transition plan for a return to elected government that was outlined last month.
“This interim government has chosen a fully securitized approach to this political crisis, and while it likely has robust popular backing, it is not going to quell the dissent and is going to precipitate violent reprisals and insurgent style attacks throughout the country, with a particular emphasis on sectarian reprisals,” says Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egypt expert at the Century Foundation. “The possibility for near term deescalation is pretty bleak… and whatever ambitious timelines for transition that were laid out on the original roadmap are going to have to be shelved.”
Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, a deputy vice president in the interim government who had helped garner international support and had opposed a crackdown on the protests, resigned today. In a letter to the military-appointed interim president he wrote “It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear.”
A NEW WAVE OF MARTYRS
Following weeks of warnings, police began clearing the camps early this morning, using bulldozers, tear gas, and live gunfire. The sit-ins were filled with Morsi supporters, some families with children, who had vowed to stay until he was reinstated. While police overpowered the smaller camp in eastern Cairo within hours, clashes continued this afternoon at the larger camp in the Nasr City neighborhood.
Police blocked roads leading to the protest, and those inside say they were besieged and shot at from nearby rooftops. The entrance to the field hospital, where dozens of bloodied bodies lined the floor, came under fire, preventing the safe evacuation of the wounded, said those inside the hospital. As evening fell, eyewitnesses reported that police raided the hospital and police were allowing some protesters to leave the square.
Around the perimeter of the encampment, Morsi supporters clashed with police. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said in a statement that it had only used tear gas, but gunshot wounds in six dead bodies lined up in a mosque near the police lines told a different story. The mosque was turned into a hospital as police and protesters fought nearby and dead and wounded were brought inside. One doctor, his green scrubs soaked in sweat, worked desperately to save a severely wounded man who struggled to breathe.
Volunteers yelled “Martyr!” as they brought in a body and laid it on the green carpeted floor next to the others, then covered it with a sheet. A family gathered around one of the bodies, crying and wailing as they cradled the head of their dead loved one.
Nearby, Maged Mohy’s cheeks were wet with tears as he grieved for his friend Maged Ahmed Youssef, under a sheet nearby. “We hate the Egyptian police,” he said. “We hate Sisi and his supporters,” he said, referring to army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who executed Morsi’s ouster. “I wish to see Sisi and all his supporters killed like this.”
A man read the names of the dead, calling them martyrs, over the mosque’s loudspeakers. Outside,crowds chanted “Islamic! Islamic!” as they rallied the protesters facing police. Karam Risk, who received a birdshot wound in his chest, sat in the shade, resting.
“We are fighting for freedom, for dignity, for our voice,” he said. “And we will win. We will put an end to this today. This is not for my freedom, but for my daughter’s.”
Outside Cairo, those angered by the crackdown clashed with police, attacked police stations, and burned churches. Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights, says churches were attacked in the city of Suez and throughout southern Egypt, including Fayoum, Minya, the village of Delga, and Sohag, where a large church was set on fire. Christian homes and businesses were also attacked in Assiut and the province of Minya, he says. He expects the violence to worsen.
Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist figures have repeatedly accused Christians of fomenting the anti-Morsi protests, stoking anger and bigotry against Christians. Earlier this week, a speaker on stage at the protest camp blamed Christians for betraying Egypt. After Morsi’s ouster, Christians were attacked in southern Egypt, where they make up a larger percentage of the population and sectarian violence is common.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag says the Brotherhood condemned violence against Christians, and suggested the attacks on churches were carried out by security forces in an effort to smear Islamists. Mr. Ibrahim said local priests blamed them on Islamists and Morsi supporters.
The police crackdown will not stop the protesters, Mr. Darrag says. “What is happening today is not just happening to the Brotherhood. This is a full war against democracy. The masses in the streets are more determined to stay and open new locations for sit ins, and keep on peacefully protesting until they get what they are asking for.”
The standoff began when the military removed Morsi on July 3, after massive nationwide protests calling for him to step down. Since then, the military has appointed an interim president and the interim government has laid out a roadmap for new elections.
But the Brotherhood and Morsi supporters have camped out and refused to negotiate or participate in the political process, insisting that Morsi must first be reinstated. The public, frustrated with his refusal to govern inclusively and his failure to fix the failing economy, had largely turned against Morsi. Many are now cheering the crackdown on his supporters.
In the street near the larger protest camp, local residents cursed the Morsi supporters who put up roadblocks to hamper police. As the protesters wailed that those inside the camp were being killed, one resident, who refused to give his name, said “Good. Let all of them die there.”
THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’S WAR ON COPTIC CHRISTIANS
By Kirsten Powers Aug 22, 2013 4:45 AM
Brutal murders, looting and burning, Facebook rumors. Egypt’s Islamist party is leading a campaign of deadly lies against the country’s Christian minority as the world watches.
The Muslim Brotherhood is showing the world its true colors.
The group that “renounced violence” in an effort to gain political power is engaged in a full-scale campaign of terror against Egypt’s Christian minority. Brotherhood leaders have incited their followers to attack Christian homes, shops, schools and churches throughout the country. Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian scholar with the Hudson Institute, told me these attacks are the worst violence against the Coptic Church since the 14th century.
The news coming out of Egypt is staggering. USA Today reports that “forty churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged” in one week. According to the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches in Egypt, 160 Christian-owned buildings have also been attacked.
In one town, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like prisoners of war after burning their Franciscan school. The attackers tore a cross off the gate of the school and replaced it with an Islamist flag. The New York Times described hundreds of Islamists in one attack, “lashing out so ferociously that marble altars were left in broken heaps on the floor.”
Two security guards working on a tour boat owned by Christians were burned alive. An orphanage was burned down. The Catholic Bishop of Luxor told the Vatican news agency Tuesday that he has been trapped in his home for 20 days by Islamist mobs chanting “Death to the Christians!” “People who reside in the villages of the area that have nothing because food supplies are running out and people are afraid to leave the house,” he said.
For the first time in 1600 years, prayers were not held in the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is an archaeological site. According to the local priest, they were destroyed by supporters of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. On one village street, Islamists painted a red X on Muslim stores and a black X on Christian stores, so attackers knew where to focus their rage. On Tuesday, there were reports that the Brotherhood declared Friday prayers to be held in an evangelical church in the town of Minya that has been converted to a mosque.
The wave of attacks followed clashes between the military and Morsi supporters that left more than 800 dead. But what did the Christians have to do with that? Nothing. The leader of the military, like nearly every top government official in Egypt, is a devout Muslim. Yet, in the town of Al Nazla, a local mosque broadcast through its loudspeakers the lie that it was Christians who were attacking the protesters. Hundreds of villagers stormed the local church shouting “Allahu akbar” and “Islam is the solution,” according to local residents.
The Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is rife with false accusations meant to foment hatred against Copts, including the absurd claim that the Church has declared “war against Islam and Muslims.”
A Brotherhood spokesman dismissed the wave of attacks as being perpetrated by “foolish boys” and alleged a conspiracy against his organization. But the Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is rife with false accusations meant to foment hatred against Copts, including the absurd claim that the Church has declared “war against Islam and Muslims” and justified the attacks by saying: “After all this, people ask why they burn the churches.” Then came a threat: “For every action there is a reaction.”
The Muslim Brotherhood has been inciting violence against the Copts in an effort to scapegoat the religious minority for the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. The FJP Facebook page is filled with the rhetoric the Brotherhood leaders have been using in their speeches at the sit-ins: “The pope of the Church is involved in the removal of the first elected Islamist president. The pope of the Church alleges Islamic Sharia is backwards, stubborn, and reactionary.”
It’s true that Pope Tawadros and most Coptic Christians supported Morsi’s removal. But they were a fraction of the larger coalition against him. After all, Christians make up just 10 percent of the population in a country where millions of people turned out to call for the removal of the Egyptian president. In raw numbers, far more Muslims opposed Morsi than Christians. Of the leaders who stood with al-Sisi as he announced the ouster of Morsi, the pope was joined by the grand imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, a respected Sunni cleric.
Even before the mass church burnings, 16 Egyptian human-rights organizations issued a statement saying they “strongly condemn rhetoric employed by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies which includes clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains …” On August 15th, nine Egyptian human-rights groups released a statement saying, “In December … Brotherhood leaders began fomenting anti-Christian sectarian incitement. The anti-Coptic incitement and threats continued unabated up to the demonstrations of June 30 and, with the removal of President Morsi … morphed into sectarian violence, which was sanctioned by … the continued anti-Coptic rhetoric heard from the group’s leaders on the stage … throughout the sit-in.”
The Obama administration has been disengaged, first saying they were “concerned” on August 14, when a State Department spokesperson was asked about the ongoing attacks. The next day President Obama lumped the ongoing terrorizing of Christians in Egypt into a broader statement, saying, “We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches.” In response to a question at Monday’s State Department press briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “We deplore in the strongest terms the reprehensible attacks …”
Middle East expert and Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Aaron David Miller told me in an interview, “The attacks on the churches is a problem that is not getting enough attention. The United States got on this far too late, in terms of condemning violence against the churches.”
Coptic Christians in Tennessee demonstrated this week, chanting, “Obama, Obama don’t you care? Christian blood is everywhere.” They shouted “eid wahda,” the Egyptian phrase that means “one hand” and has become the post-Morsi mantra. It conveys the widely held sentiment there that Egyptians, both Christians and Muslims, are united with the army against the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is not a Muslim versus Christian conflict, as much as the Muslim Brotherhood would like the world to think it is. A priest at one of the churches that was looted and burned told Al Jazeera that most of his Muslim neighbors are peaceful. “Out of 50,000, you will find maybe 1,000 that are like [the attackers],” he said. The problem is the Muslim Brotherhood, full stop. When will the Obama administration realize it?
Kirsten Powers is a columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a contributor to USA Today and a Fox News political analyst. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, The New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine, and American Prospect online.
For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at [email protected]
REPORT: 42 CHRISTIAN CHURCHES ATTACKED IN EGYPT
Published August 22, 2013
An international human rights group has chronicled attacks on 42 churches, dozens of Christian institutions and schools as well as homes and business owned by Christians amid an intimidation campaign believed to be waged by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
In a new report, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thursday that authorities are “largely absent or failed to intervene” when churches or properties come under attack. The campaign picked up on Aug. 14 when police violently cleared two protest camps set up by the deposed president’s supporters in Cairo. The crackdown sparked nationwide violence that left hundreds dead and thousands injured.
The group said that most of the anti-Christian attacks were concentrated in southern Egypt. At least three Christians and one Muslim were killed as a result.
As a result of the attacks, one Christian church in Egypt canceled Mass for the first time in 1,600 years on Sunday.
“We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years,” Selwanes Lotfy, the priest of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery in Degla, told the al-Masry al-Youm, according to The Times of Israel.
Lofty said Morsi supporters targeted the monastery – which includes three churches and an archaeological site – in a recent attack.
“One of the extremists wrote on the monastery’s wall, ‘donate [this] to the martyrs’ mosque,'” Lofty added.
Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million population and have long suffered from discrimination and violence.
Dozens of Coptic Christian churches and businesses in Egypt have been attacked by Islamists in the past week, after government forces cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’S BID TO SCAPEGOAT CHRISTIANS FAILING, SAY EGYPTIANS
By Lisa Daftari
Published August 22, 2013
As their nation descends into violent chaos, Egyptians are increasingly blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, despite attempts by the Islamist group to scapegoat Christians and the military, according to several sources who spoke to FoxNews.com from Cairo.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has lost all sympathy with their points due to their violence,” said a Long Island, N.Y., Egyptian-American, who is in a Cairo suburb for a family wedding.
The man, a Coptic Christian who asked that his name not be used until he and his family are safely back in the U.S., told FoxNews.com he arrived in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis last weekend, just days after Muslim Brotherhood supporters began clashing violently with security forces. Since then, nightly curfews, angry mobs and closed roads that cut off supplies to restaurants and groceries have made his homeland unrecognizable.
“We see very few people after 7 p.m. in the streets,” he told FoxNews.com.
The violence began when, more than a month after the military stripped President Mohammad Morsi of power and took him into custody, authorities cleared camps of protesters in Cairo.
That action prompted a violent uprising in which more than 1,000 people have been killed. Morsi, who critics said had put the nation on a path toward Islamist rule, is now facing accusations of conspiring with Hamas to escape from prison during the 2011 uprising and complicity in the killing and torture of protesters outside his Cairo palace in December.
A Muslim woman named Nina told FoxNews.com most citizens – Christian and Muslim – are solidly behind the military, which has been criticized by the west for its decisive crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
“I am Muslim and I am against terrorism and I support the revolution [which ousted Morsi] and I support all the decisions of the Egyptian army forces,” she said. “We love Egypt so much and we hope the foreign countries stop misunderstanding about us and the situation now in Egypt.”
Even at mosques, the tide seems to be turning against the Muslim Brotherhood, according to one man who spoke from Cairo.
“They gather around mosques, from five to 100 of them, to show they are important and the goal is to go and cut off the roads and rally to get more supporters,” he said.
“Sometimes during Friday prayers, the sheikh wants to push people to support the Muslim Brotherhood, but modern Muslims are dominant and not deceived anymore with fake words that defending the Muslim Brotherhood is defending Islam,” he said.
One former jihadist and Salafist cleric who spoke to MidEast Christian News said the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to focus anger against the nation’s Christian minority, which did not support Morsi, but was hardly alone in that stance.
“The Brotherhood lost everything, politically and economically,” Osama el-Quossi told MCN. “They lost the citizens’ sympathy, so they used religion to gain support of ordinary people.”
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH URGES EGYPT TO PROTECT CHURCHES
Published August 22, 2013
CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian authorities must protect churches and Christian homes and businesses from attack and Islamists must stop inciting sectarian violence, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The group said it had documented attacks on 42 churches and dozens of Christian institutions, schools and homes, as well as Christian-owned businesses across the country.
It said at least four people were reported killed in sectarian violence, three Christians and one Muslim.
Attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority have escalated since the July 3 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
The attacks dramatically increased since the August 14 dispersal of two pro-Morsi protest camps in the capital.
Human Rights Watch said authorities had failed to protect Christians from attacks, and that Islamists, including Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, had failed to properly condemn the violence and prevent future attacks.
“For weeks, everyone could see these attacks were coming, with Muslim Brotherhood members accusing Coptic Christians of a role in Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, but the authorities did little or nothing to prevent them,” said Joe Stork, the group’s acting Middle East director.
“In the vast majority of the 42 cases Human Rights Watch documented, neither the police nor the military were present at the start or during the attack,” the group said.
It said a priest in Minya province told the group he had called police and emergency services multiple times as mobs attacked his church, but no one came.
A bishop told the group he contacted senior government officials to plead for help, and though they promised to send protection, none arrived.
But while HRW criticised the government for failing to protect Christians, it also said the country’s Islamists deserved blame for inciting the attacks.
They came “after weeks of sectarian discourse by Muslim Brotherhood supporters” at two pro-Morsi protest camps, the group said.
And while some Muslim Brotherhood leaders have condemned the attacks, others “have suggested a Coptic role in the ongoing crackdown on the group,” HRW said.
“While a few Muslim Brotherhood leaders have condemned these attacks, they also need to tell the group’s followers to stop inciting violence by insinuating that the Coptic minority is responsible for the crackdown,” Stork said.
Copts make up six to 10 percent of Egypt’s population, and are the largest Christian denomination in the country.
However, there are also Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Chaldeans, Greek Catholics, Orthodox and various Protestant groups present in the country. Some of them also suffered attacks on their churches or church-related institutions.
EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS RETURN TO WORSHIP IN CHURCH DESTROYED BY MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
Published August 19, 2013
Copts whose church was one of dozens destroyed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters have returned to the charred house of worship, with their pastor vowing the violence suffered by his flock will make them “better Christians.”
“This will learn us to be better Christians,” said Pastor Sameh Ibrahim of a torched congregation in Minya, the capital of Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt, where some 14 churches were reportedly attacked in recent days.
Across Egypt, at least 60 churches have been targeted, along with Christian schools, homes,businesses and even an orphanage, according to conservative estimates. In the areas of Minya, Beni Suef, Fayoum and Assiut, Christian homes and businesses have received leaflets warning them to leave or face reprisals by Islamists, Christians said.
Christian homes and businesses in Minya have reportedly been marked with black X’s to single them out for attack.
Another pastor in the area shares his concerns. “We live in our church, so when someone attacks out congregation, it’s as if our house is being attacked,” said Pastor John Amin of the Meni Mazar church in published remarks.
“Our children are afraid,” he added.
As violence envelops Egypt, Christians are paying a heavy price with scores of their most sacred buildings and monuments being systematically destroyed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in what one Coptic leader called an attempt at ethnic cleansing.
The group, which is clashing with the military throughout the North African nation, has zeroed in on Christians since the Muslim Brotherhood-backed administration of Mohamed Morsi was ousted on July 3. The military removed him from power after he imposed several sweeping constitutional changes that appeared to put the nation of 90 million on a path toward Islamist rule.
“The Muslim Brotherhood continues its attacks on churches to implement their scheme, which includes ethnic cleansing and the forced displacement of Copts,” Abul Ezz el-Hariri, a Christian and former presidential candidate from Alexandria, told MidEast Christian News. “Egyptian churches are part of a blueprint by the MB to lure other Islamist groups.”
“The Muslim Brotherhood continues its attacks on churches to implement their scheme, which includes ethnic cleansing and the forced displacement of Copts.”
– Abul Ezz el-Hariri, a Christian and former presidential candidate
At least 50 Christian churches and schools have been looted and set ablaze since fierce fighting broke out last week. In one recent case, Islamists torched a Franciscan school and then paraded three nuns on the street like “prisoners of war” before a Muslim woman offered them refuge, according to Catholic World Report.
The campaign of intimidation also has targeted the homes and businesses of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the nation’s population. Egypt’s Christian community is one of the world’s oldest, and generally kept a low-profile before becoming more active after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the rapidly spiraling Islamification that followed under Morsi.
Under fire, Christians are solidly backing the military’s harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt…confirms its strong stance with the Egyptian law enforcement, the armed forces, and all of the institutions of the Egyptian people in its confrontation of the violent armed organizations,” the nation’s Christian leader, Pope Tawadros II, said in a statement.
Monasteries, dioceses, churches, schools and other property of Copts have been targeted since government security forces broke up Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Raba al-Adaweya and Nahda squares on Wednesday.
RIGHTS GROUP: DOZENS OF EGYPT’S CHURCHES TARGETED IN ATTACKS AMID POLICE ABSENCE
Published August 22, 2013
CAIRO – An international human rights group has chronicled attacks on 42 churches, dozens of Christian institutions and schools as well as homes and business owned by Christians amid an intimidation campaign believed to be waged by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
In a new report, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thursday that authorities are “largely absent or failed to intervene” when churches or properties come under attack. The campaign picked up on Aug. 14 when police violently cleared two protest camps set up by the deposed president’s supporters in Cairo. The crackdown sparked nationwide violence that left hundreds dead and thousands injured.
The group said that most of the anti-Christian attacks were concentrated in southern Egypt. At least three Christians and one Muslim were killed as a result.
COPTIC CHRISTIANS FLEEING EGYPT FIND SAFETY, SUPPORT TAMPA BAY CHURCHES
Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:04p
TAMPA — In a room hazy with incense, Father Moussa Saleh paused the liturgy on Sunday and asked his Coptic Christian congregation to pray for Egypt.
In Arabic, they sang a hymn for a country in turmoil. Men sat on the left, women on the right. Tears streamed down faces on both sides.
The revolutionary violence in Egypt has consumed the minds and conversations of many at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tampa, which has helped about 50 Egyptian Christian immigrant families this year. They have poured into the United States since January, when large crowds started protesting against then Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
Though Christians were not the subject of recent sectarian violence in Egypt, Coptic Christians, which make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have come under fire since Egypt’s military deposed Morsi on July 3. The Christians support his ouster, and the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that supported Morsi, partly blames them for the military takeover.
Coptic churches have been attacked. Christians do not feel safe walking alone. Some move between houses, afraid they are being stalked.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in Egypt, and its members believe in the Holy Trinity and in Jesus as their savior. It is theologically similar to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Dozens of Coptic Christians have landed in Tampa this year, brought here by friends, family or word of mouth — they are told that if they find a local Coptic church, its members will help.
Remon Ayad, 32, fled several months ago with his pregnant wife. He says his wife had received threats from Muslims who accused her of trying to convert a woman to Christianity.
Stepping outside the chapel during Thursday’s liturgy for the Feast of St. Mary, a church holy day, he said he has no idea what his future holds. For now, he has a visitor visa. His lasts until next month, his wife’s through October.
Like many new immigrants, he hopes to get asylum. His wife, Noha Moneer, says she’s terrified about being forced to return.
Ayad also cannot imagine moving back to Egypt, where he wore long sleeves to cover a tattoo on his forearm that reads “Jesus.”
There, he would get in trouble for the tattoo, he said. Now, he feels safe.
A fellow churchgoer, Fady, does not. He declined to share his last name, saying he fears radical Muslims will track him down.
In Egypt, Fady, 49, was a police officer until he retired in 2008. This year, he says, he was stalked and once attacked. He points to a small scar on top of his head. It is retribution, he said, by the Muslim Brotherhood for a police investigation Fady helped with more than a decade ago.
When he flew to Tampa on June 27, he left everything in Egypt, including his police retirement fund, mother and adult son.
He last spoke to them about a week ago. These days, he cries a lot.
Others left Egypt because they lost their jobs. Many worked in the now-suffering tourist industry, running boat tours in Luxor and working in hotels near the Red Sea.
Dozens have been moving to Nashville, lured by the promise of hotel jobs. In Tampa, many who recently arrived do not have work visas and are unemployed.
St. George’s congregation helps with the rent and passes along donated furniture. The church is running in the red, Saleh said, but it refuses to turn away fellow Coptic Christians.
Other churches are helping, too. Florida has 16 Coptic churches, including four in the Tampa Bay area. In addition to St. George, a nondescript beige building on Busch Boulevard, there are churches in Wesley Chapel, Clearwater and New Port Richey.
Father Matthew Morgan of St. Reweis Coptic Orthodox Church in Wesley Chapel said the families who have come to him do not ask for money.
“They just need help getting situated,” he said.
Christine Eid, 28, received furniture from St. George’s church about a year ago, when she and her husband left Egypt. They fled because she felt intimidated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which gained power with Morsi’s 2012 election.
Normally, Christians and Muslims live peacefully together, she said. The problem is not Muslims, but the Brotherhood, she said. She and others at the Tampa church do not understand why President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials do not condemn them and support the Egyptian military.
Some have called it a coup, but those at St. George say it was the will of the Egyptian people.
“In 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood started to scare people,” she said. “They have guns and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades).”
Just last week, Eid says, her former church in Egypt was attacked. Now, her family can only attend church during the day. Nighttime services have been canceled for safety reasons.
It is hard for her to picture a future in America, though she and her husband are trying to build one — for themselves and their 1-year-old son.
“I miss my country,” she said. “I miss my family. I miss my church.”
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.
Copts are ancient Egyptians, and the Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in Egypt, making up about 10 percent of the country’s population. They believe in the Holy Trinity and in Jesus as their savior. Their churches are often filled with elaborate icons and their services are highly formal.
In Egypt, Christianity predates Islam, which did not arrive until the 7th century. As Islam became the majority religion, Christians often found themselves subjected to discrimination, though outright persecution was not common, said Duke University religion professor Lucas Van Rompay.
Coptic Christians have peacefully lived with Muslims for centuries, but, today, they consider a particular faction of Islamists — the Muslim Brotherhood — to be a terrorist organization.
Though not the reason for recent sectarian violence in Egypt, Christians have come under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July, sparking anger led by the Muslim Brotherhood.