Perilous times for Egypt’s Christian community. In “Egypt’s Coptic Christians Are Choosing Isolation,” the Washington Post reports that “the most populous Christian community in the Middle East is seeking safety by turning inward, cutting day-to-day social ties that have bound Muslim to Christian in Egypt for centuries.”
The story notes a dramatic decline in of the Coptic Christian population in Egypt. Violent confrontations between Muslims and Christians are on the upswing. In May, Arab Bedouins attacked monks reclaiming the 1,700-year-old monastery of Abu Fana.
Monks say the attackers fired on them with AK-47 assault rifles and captured some among them to torture. Attackers broke the legs of one monk by pounding them between two rocks. One Muslim man was killed.
A few days earlier, gunmen in Cairo killed four Copts at a jewelry store but left without taking anything. Strife over liaisons between Christian and Muslim men and women led to recent clashes between the communities in Egypt’s countryside.
Egypt’s government invariably denies that sectarian tension lies behind the violence. It blamed the violence at the Abu Fana monastery on a land dispute.
A monk, Brother Shenouda, says: “I believe we will be the new martyrs.”
The Free Copts site has extensive coverage of the violence directed at Christians.
The blog of the Middle East Media Research Institute published a report from Egyptian writer Ahmad Al-Aswani on the escalating series of physical attacks on members of the Coptic minority in Egypt:
What is happening is an attempt to terrorize Egypt’s Copts, and to force them either to emigrate from the homeland once and for all, or to convert to Islam to protect themselves and their families [from harm] and to protect their property from the confiscation mentioned by many Islamic publications.
It causes me regret, and as an Egyptian it makes my heart bleed, to see this farce endlessly repeated, and to see the same prominent individuals say the same words – and [then to see] the matter forgotten a short time later.
Frankly, I blame the Coptic leadership in Egypt, headed by His Eminence Pope [Shenouda III] himself, because it has reached the point where lives and property are taken with impunity, and clearly with the authorities’ collusion – with no fear of effective response, and with the confidence of all that, as always, the matter will end with beard-kissing and forgetting.