Sunday, October 09, 2016

Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Church

"We are at a breaking point. People can't put up with any more of this."
"After that woman was stripped [an older Christian woman stripped naked by a mob], we couldn't be quiet, not after that."
"[What incensed Copts] is that officials came out denying the incident [had occurred]."
"In such attacks, every one of them [attackers] is released, not a single one has been punished, and that's what really upsets the Copts."
"So long as no one is punished, this is just going to get worse."
Bishop Makarios, Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church, Minya, Egypt

"Everything is good. No one has been killed. No one has even been wounded."
"There's no conflict. The problem is really with the journalists writing about it."
Imam Mahmoud Gomaa, Muslim cleric
Gianluigi Guercia, AFP | Coptic Christians talk on August 27, 2013 inside the Amba Moussa Coptic church that was torched by unknown assailants after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi

The Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church vastly predates the presence of Islam in Egypt. Conditions between Christians and Muslims have always been problematic. For one thing Muslims far outstrip in numbers, those of the Christian population. For another, Islam considers itself the complete, final and finished edition of monotheism; that Judaism and Christianity which followed it, were initial trials at monotheism but god perfected the final version and negated the previous two.

In Islam, it stands to reason that Jews and Christians should abandon Judaism and Christianity in favour of Islam. And because neither Jews nor Christians looked favourably upon this invitation extended by the Prophet Mohammad, they were persecuted and oppressed over the ages -- almost one and a half millennia -- made subservient and had taxes levied upon them as punishment, if they weren't slaughtered or enslaved.

A congregation of Coptic Christians in Egypt (AP)

In present-day Egypt, Coptic Christians remain oppressed and persecuted, and sometimes come under violent attack by Muslim mobs when rumours have it that disrespect has been shown to Islam or to the Prophet, by Christians. No new Christian churches may be built, and Christians may not interfere with Islamic proceedings; traditionally Christians had to defer to Muslims.

In Minya, Christians are prone to episodes of humiliating violence. Homes of Coptic Egyptians have been destroyed, Copts are attacked on the streets and messages of hate are scribbled on church walls. When the rule of President Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was overturned episodes of violence were increased until the current government stepped in to quell the unrest. Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egyptian Copts are given assurances of support.

A woman whose son was accused of having an illicit affair with a Muslim woman, was attacked, humiliated, stripped naked. The Muslim woman responded to those accusations by suing her husband for libel in bruiting about a false rumour to humiliate and harm her. The government of Egypt took steps to ameliorate the unrest between Muslims and Christians by clumsily appointing a Muslim cleric to build peace bonds between the two.

Despite protestations that no one has lost their life, according to Bishop Makarios, in July a Christian was stabbed to death by a mob in the Minya village of Tahna El-Jabal, and in Sinai a Christian priest was killed by ISIL terrorists, the ninth victim among Copts in the northern Sinai. The bishop expects that the perpetrator in the stabbing will eventually be freed, as has happened before.

Bishop Makarios stated: "I have nothing to do with Mahmound Gomaa". In Minya, 40 percent of the population is Christian. The Coptic pope, Tawadros II, is attempting to deal with the issue of Muslim-versus-Christian unrest, where the ten percent of the Egyptian population represented by the Christian community continues to live in an uneasy state. The government has provided security, even as Egyptian Muslims have become increasingly hostile.
Pope Tawadros II (AP)
Pope Tawadros II (AP)

Even so, Egyptian Copts make every effort to present to the outside world a situation of accommodation and less-than-strained relations between Christians and Muslims; that the Church has no problem working with the central government, and all is well. In Egypt, tolerance and religious harmony exists; except where and when it does not.

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