Sometimes I forget to come home. Yesterday, Tiger Hawk and Charles Johnson carried stories about the abominable attack on Coptic St. Grigis Church in Alexandria, Egypt. I left similar comments on both posts, but it didn’t occur to me to come home and make my own statement about this all-too-familiar treatment of Copts by the Egyptians. I did say something a tad bitter in my comment on Tigerhawk, though:
|… that makes me wonder how the Coptics managed to hold on, or why they’re not all dead now. African Americans ought to look into the lives Coptic Christians live in Egypt; it would give them some insight into *real* present-day oppression.|
Yes, I know. I am insufficiently attuned to the suffering of victims. Just put it on my account.
But the oppression of Coptic Egyptians is serious and ongoing. It has never stopped. In addition to the outbreak of Muslim violence following their Friday prayers (what is it about praying that makes Muslim blood boil against the infidel? This is the Religion of Peace, right?),
|Coptic Orthodox Christians who gathered yesterday to celebrate their first Sunday Mass in a small village church were attacked with rocks and firebombs by a Muslim mob near El-Minya, 140 miles south of Cairo.|
|According to local sources in the village of Bani El-Walmous, the armed attackers damaged the church’s cross and set the pews on fire. Reuters news agency reported the number injured in the clash at 11, including two policemen.|
|But according to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV station’s Arabic news broadcasts, 10 Coptic Christians were wounded and 35 nearby homes were destroyed. The BBC reported only four injuries, three Muslims and a Christian, with five homes set afire. Later reports could confirm only 15 Coptic homes burned, with a number of others looted.|
|After security police cordoned off Bani El-Walmous village yesterday afternoon, independent observers have been unable to verify either the number of injuries or the extent of destruction. “We are still waiting for the details,” editor Youssef Sidhom of the weekly “Watani” newspaper told Compass today, after confirming he had a correspondent at the site.|
|Egyptian authorities quickly blamed the clash on “provocative elements from both sides, Muslim and Christian” in official statements. Security forces told Reuters that after a Muslim mob pelted the church with rocks, Coptic Christians inside the building had fired shotguns at their attackers.|
|According to the official explanation released by the Egyptian government, the clash was ignited over the ringing of the church bell during the consecration of the new church. In a statement on state-run television, the governor of El-Minya stated that the ordinary Muslims there were “not used to hearing church bells,” and this “frustrated” them.|
|“The problem is not what the mob did,” Sidhom commented, “but as always is the case, what the authorities do — how they behave, and how they comment on the crisis. This always feeds fundamentalist attitudes.”|
|Sidhom said he had learned that Coptic Orthodox Bishop Aghason and the parish priest of the new church in the suburbs of El-Minya had informed local police and security authorities in advance about the inauguration ceremonies for the new church.|
|“But in spite of that,” Sidhom said, “when they started ringing the church bell for the Mass, the church was attacked with stones and small pieces of cloth set afire by the mob.”|
|When the local police force failed to appear, church leaders reportedly telephoned security police authorities in Cairo to request protection for the local parishioners and their guests, caught under siege inside the church.|
|Although the attack began about 9 a.m., no police officials appeared until 12:38 p.m., when a local witness told Compass a colonel arrived from Maghagha, some 40 miles away. Ordering the mob out of the area, the colonel reportedly housed Bishop Aghason and other clergy in the Agricultural Development Bank for their protection until the situation calmed down.|
|According to an official government statement, 43 people have been arrested for questioning since the village went under police guard yesterday.|
|“Tension in Upper Egypt has been fueled by the rise of Islamic militancy over the last 20 years,” yesterday’s BBC article noted.|
|Destructive and deadly clashes have broken out repeatedly in Egypt over the building and repair of churches by the Coptic Christian community, who represent 10 percent or more of Egypt’s 70 million people. Since official permits take years or even decades to acquire, church constructions are attacked and demolished with impunity by the general Muslim public on the pretext that they have been built illegally.|
How do you even begin to take this apart? Let’s see…
- Muslims are frightened by church bells.
- They also don’t like the building or repair of Coptic Churches. If you check your Koran, you know that this is a huge no-no. Christians may meet in private, if no one in authority knows about it, but they certainly are not permitted — koranically, anyway — to just up and build a church.
- Notice al-Reuters report that after the mob pelted the church with rocks, the Christians returned the attack by firing shotguns.
The history of the Copts in Egypt pre-dates the arrival of the Muslims. Christianity thrived in the Middle East. Here originated many of the writings of the Patristics (the Church Fathers), here the arguments and alarums of various Christian sects were fought and sounded. Here arose Christian monasticism, first with St. Anthony of the Desert in Northern Egypt, and, almost contemporaneously, St. Pachomius established his own rule in the South.
|The monasticism established under St Anthony’s direct influence became the norm in Northern Egypt, from Lycopolis (Asyut) to the Mediterranean. In contradistinction to the fully coenobitical system, established by Pachomius in the South, it continued to be of a semi-eremetical character, the monks living commonly in separate cells or huts, and coming together only occasionally for church services; they were left very much to their own devices, and the life they lived was not a community life according to rule, as now understood…|
Later, after Christianity was crushed in the Middle East, St. Benedict altered Anthony’s ideas to make them more compatible with Western (Roman) Christianity. Today, Christian monasticism in the West, of whatever sect, follows the Rule of Benedict.
So why did the Coptic Christians survive in Egypt when so many other Christian sects in the Middle East were erased as though they had never existed? Perhaps because of Mohammed himself, who had an Egyptian wife, the only one to bear him a child. Mohammed had a soft spot for the Egyptians, even the Copts. Here he says:
|“When you conquer Egypt, be kind to the Copts for they are your proteges and kith and kin.”|
And so it was. For four hundred years after the conquest of Egypt, the Coptic Church continued to flourish. The Coptic language remained the primary language of Egypt until 1050 A.D., not dying out as a cultural language until the 1500’s. Now it is confined to the Coptic Christian liturgy.
The Religion of Peace is not a Religion of History except as it records Muslim conquests. Never self-reflective and not allowed to exhibit curiosity, its theology is confined to ever more minute descriptions of behavior rather than to moral development. Islam has been stultified for centuries.
Thus do we see images of Coptic churches set upon by Muslims after Friday prayers. Where there is no understanding of the past there is fear of the future. Where there is fear of the future there is shame and envy of those not limited by such burdens. And so, enraged by what they cannot know and are not permitted to understand, they stoop to pick up the rock.
Their situation is only made sadder by the ignorant Christians in the West who desire to show their solidarity with such behavior. Historical ignorance is pervasive in the Arab Street. That it also infests the Western chancery and cathedral is abominable.