“But no one came…” The Plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt

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 Christian persecutionWhat is it like to live under unremitting persecution because of your faith? 

What follows is an exclusive first-hand look at the terrifying face of evil from a Coptic Christian in Egypt:

 

“Wednesday, August 21–In The village of Saft El Laban in Minya, very close to Mina city, the distance is about 10 kilometers between it and Minya, a quarrel between Christian boys and Muslim boys led to severe clashes between Muslims and Christians in this village.

A person belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood used a loudspeaker at a mosque in this village and spread a false rumor among the people there that the Coptics of this village killed a Muslim man, he incited the Muslims of this village against Christians. So many supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Fanatics from this village attacked the Christians, looted and burnt eight Christian homes, wounding some Christians.

 

I talked to a Christian resident in this village named Mina Saber, he told me that what happened was terrible.

“‘They were chanting Allah Akbar while burning the Christian homes. They destroyed more than eight Christian homes, insulted us, injured many Christian in the absence of the police. We tried more times to call the police to come and protect us from these attacks but no one of them came.”

He added ‘that the Christians here are living in horror, there is a situation of panic and fear among all of us. Because they threatened that they will kill all of us and they said that they are going to purify the village from the Christians. This mean that they will get rid of Christians in this village and unfortunately there isn’t any protection for us’”.

 

I recently interviewed Todd Daniels, of International Christian Concern.  Todd graciously provided an inside look at the work he and his organization do on behalf of persecuted Christians throughout the world and a glimpse into the fear that Coptics are forced to live with daily.

 

LG:  Please describe the work you do for ICC.

 

TD:  ICC exists to assist the persecuted church around the world. This is done through a variety of means including assistance projects, raising awareness in the media for the general public, and by mobilizing the church to be more informed as they pray.

 

I serve as the Regional Manager for the Middle East at ICC. Our regional managers are part journalist, part human rights advocate, and part relief worker. We have the opportunity to cover the developments in our region, specifically noting how it impacts Christians and write and speak out on this through a variety of forums. We are also actively engaged in advocacy work promoting religious freedom and addressing specific cases where international political or legal pressure may be of value. Then, we are also working through a network of in-country partners and representatives to carry out assistance projects to actually make a difference in the lives of individuals that we are reporting on. We not only get to talk about persecution of Christians, but also are hands on in assisting those who are hurting.

 

LG:  You recently wrote an article titled “Christians Fear Another Day of Burning in Egypt”  for Persecution.Org.  What is the “The Day of Rage” or “Day of Fire” that you discuss and how does it affect Coptic Christians?

 

TD:  There have been periodic calls for a “Day of Rage” by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. These are mass demonstrations that are expected to turn into violence against those who the Muslim Brotherhood feel are responsible for their fall from power. There are typically three targets: government buildings, police stations, and Coptic Christians. The most vulnerable being the Christians. On August 16th, this led to violent clashes throughout the country and dozens of people killed as mass demonstrations turned violent and led to attacks on hundreds of churches, schools, monasteries, shops, and homes owned by the Coptic Christians. Subsequent calls for a “day of rage” have not garnered the same level of response, but the fear is palpable as the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have shown no apprehension towards the use of violence.

 

LG:  You mention in your article the climate of fear that Copts are living under. What measures are they taking to protect themselves and their families?

 

TD:  The climate of fear is strong all across the country, but in some places it has nearly paralyzed some individuals. Roughly ten percent of the population is Christian, so you have people engaged in all levels of the economy. Some operate without problems, while others are persecuted directly because of their faith. After the recent wave of attacks they are certainly more cautious. Many try to avoid being out at night, or leaving women at home alone. The reason for that is that kidnappings and attacks against Christians continue to rise. On Tuesday, September 3, a Christian doctor was kidnapped at gunpoint on his way home from a clinic in a village. His kidnappers demanded a ransom of 500,000 Egyptian Pounds ($72,000 USD). Also on Tuesday, September 3, a teacher in Assiut in Upper Egypt was killed in her home when people broke in after her husband and children had left the house. These kinds of stories have people afraid, they are scared to go out, but scared even to stay in, and the security forces have been negligent in protecting Christians.

 

LG:  You also state in your article that different markings are used to identify Christian homes and businesses-for what purpose?

 

TD:  The yellow sign, showing a four-fingered salute, has become the sign of opposition for the removal of Mohamed Morsi and for the establishment of a temporary government. (I recently reported on R4BIA and its usage.) The same sign has also been drawn on some Christians’ houses in what they fear is a marking to indicate what houses ought to be attacked.

 

LG:  In Syria, we are witnessing untold atrocities against Christians-and many are fleeing to escape death.  Copts are also fleeing persecution and death, but some choose to stay.  Why?

 

TD:  The pressure and violence against Copts has led to many of them leaving the country- if they have the means to do so. Copts, however, have a deep tie to the land of Egypt; the word Copt is connected to the original word for the land of Egypt. Christianity here dates back to the first century. It predates Islam by hundreds of years. So, even though they are in the midst of difficult times, many will stay and continue on in their homeland.

 

LG:  Do the Copts have any support from “moderate” Muslims?

 

TD:  Yes, there absolutely have been Muslims who have stood together with Copts. Unfortunately, these instances receive far less attention. But there have been a few instances of Muslims joining together to provide protection for the church. The head of Al-Azhar University, one of the centers of Islamic learning, has criticized the use of violence and the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood. So there has been some support, but it is not often recognized. There are many Egyptians who are very troubled by the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood and do not condone it in anyway.

 

LG:  What is the opinion of Coptic Christians in the region of our administration and its foreign policy?

 

TD:  The United States has been severely criticized in Egypt. The previous ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, was viewed as being in league with the Muslim Brotherhood. This brought harsh criticism from many who have opposed the Muslim Brotherhood, both Christians and non-Christians. She has since finished her tour in Egypt and has been reassigned outside of the country. The United States policies in the region have been poorly handled and repeatedly have been backing the wrong side of conflicts. We continue to provide humanitarian and military aid to the country, but the United States has seen its political leverage greatly reduced in Egypt.