More News About Christians in Egypt

As feared, the revolution in Egypt appears to be escalating the violence against Christians in the home place of the pyramids.  According to this news report, Christians in the village of Soul (which is 30 kilometers from Cairo) were ambushed by a mob of 7,000 angry Muslims.  The Muslims stormed the Church of St. Mina and St. George, setting the facility ablaze.

The church and all of its contents were lost.  Included in the loss were a number of ancient relics which the church had preserved.  In addition, the whereabouts of the pastor and three deacons is unknown.  Some have said that they perished in the blaze; others claim they are being held captive by the Muslims.

Nina Shea, who has been covering this story for the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, reports that the churches in Egypt are now more vulnerable than ever because the guards who once were keeping watch over them now are engaged in other matters relating to the protests and demonstrations.  The churches in the provincial areas remain unguarded and have become easy targets for Muslim violence.

On February 23, there were heavy machine gun attacks by armed men against two monasteries in Egypt.  Allegedly, these attacks were in response to “zoning violations.”  In the Soul village attacks, the reason for Islamic ire was ostensibly a rumored relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.  Muslims apparently were outraged that a Muslim girl would be involved with a Christian man, on the one hand, and irate, on the other hand, because of the unwillingness of the girl’s father to kill her in order to restore honor to the village. (See more on honor killings).

According to International Christian Concern, a similar instance occurred in a separate village which ended with two people being killed and another church torched. And, in yet another attack against Christians,  Nina Shea also reports that members of the Muslim Brotherhood stormed a Christian school in downtown Asyut, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” while attempting to take over control of the school.  The school was built a century ago by Presbyterians.

Suffice it to say, the news does not look good for Christians in Egypt.  Of course, some may say that the Christians must learn to stop angering the Muslims.  Maybe the Christians should work harder to comply with local, arbitrary zoning laws so armed militants won’t be forced to storm their unarmed facilities and unload heavy machine gun fire on peaceful monks.  Or, Christians could possibly commit themselves to refusing any urges of affection toward Muslims of the opposite sex.  Yet, even then, I suspect that some other reason for outrage would emerge.  It almost seems like Muslims in the Middle East just want to kill Christians.

Wondering About Christians in Egypt?

In case some of you are wondering how Christians are doing in Egypt, you can follow this link to a news report that paints a grim picture.  Notice that the violence is taking place in a rural area far from Cairo.  It surely isn’t getting reported, and, according to the article, our present administration appears either disinterested or unaffected by news of the persecution of Christians in Egypt.

Indeed, the news article offers another example of what I was speaking about in Bush, Jesus, and Egypt.  There seems to be support for “democracy” without concern for humanity, or at least without concern for Christian humanity.

The Pity and Praise of Coptic Christians

Coptic Christian Persecution

Politically speaking, pity might be the right word to describe how we ought to respond to the plight of Christians living in Egypt and other Arab lands.  That is the argument in Fouad Ajami’s Newsweek article concerning the plight of Christians in Egypt (“Who Will Protect Christian Arabs in Egypt?”).  After recounting the glorious history of Egypt and the openness Christianity had to embracing Islam when Islam first arrived in Egypt, Ajami then offers a depressing look at what tolerance of Islam has gained for Egypt and for the Coptic Christians who once flourished there.  The nadir of Christian-Muslim relations came when Muslims in Egypt attacked a New Year’s worship service that killed and injured dozens of Coptic Christians.  Pitiful indeed.

Perhaps more pitiful has been the retreat of Christian nations from the courage that once helped these (and other) Christians in an Arab land to have the hope of freedom to worship.  Ajami recounts an earlier time when the U.S. and other freedom-loving nations would have gone to great lengths to protect Christian worshipers in Muslim lands, but those days appear to have disappeared, like the runway and airport disappears behind a departing flight.

One may think this is progress.  After all, a plane taking off is in fact heading somewhere as it leaves the airport in the distance.  Ajami says otherwise: “As the dream of modernity in Egypt has faded, there has settled upon that crowded land a deep sense of disillusion—and bigotry.”  Ajami explains,

“In times past, Western gunboats and envoys and the educational and religious missions of Western powers had concerned themselves with the fate of the Christians of the East. Consulates in the Levant provided a shield for local Christians. Jerusalem was dubbed a kingdom of the consuls. But the world has been remade, and the Christians of the East have to fend for themselves.”

The times have indeed changed, but not for the better.  Progress has been made, but in the wrong direction.  Who is to blame for the bathos of Egyptian progress?  In Ajami’s words, “The radical Islamists, and the multitudes that wink at them.”

Ajami’s article is sober and accurate, not sensationalistic.  He is right about the cause and right on the mark concerning the present plight of Coptic Christians.  You may recall that their plight was the subject of the Pope’s sermon of encouragement—which subsequently led Muslim dialogue with the Vatican to cease.  So, radical Muslims will be more emboldened to bomb other worship services with a sense of security that Muslim leaders won’t allow the Pope (or any Christian leader) to bring up the subject.  And the current administration in the U.S. will give a wink and a nod in the name of tolerance (of Islam).  Ajami has painted the scene all too well.

But Ajami’s piece lacks one significant note to complete its arrangement harmoniously.  He needs (as the Pope tried to provide) a theological perspective of hope.  From a theological perspective, these Christians are blessed.  They are presently suffering, to be sure.  But Jesus talked about what happens to the “non-sufferers” and how much better they are who remain faithful to him even while being persecuted.  Lazarus, you recall, went on to recline in the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man entered Hell (Luke 16:19-31).  These Christians in Egypt are persecuted, but surely (like the Apostle Paul) they know they have not been abandoned (2 Corinthians 6:3-10).

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus.  In other words, there is an answer to the question raised in Ajami’s title, “Who Will Protect Christian Arabs in Egypt?”

For more on Christian Arabs in Egypt, see here.