Egypt’s Copts the ‘New Martyrs’?

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.


  1. Vernon Lynn Stephens, Culdee (Servant of God)

    I am UTTERLY concerned about the duress of Copts in Egypt. It is difficult– and inviting– for me to use terms like ‘persecution’ in my easier place thousands of miles away in my ‘Desert’ (for so my place here is called, for its danger.) I think I am trying hard as humanity in me will permit– and hubris before God will prohibit– to be fair in all my hearing of these bitter tidings, am trying therefore to hear-out all sides– even with love for all with whom I find disagreeable or bearers-of-bad-news.

    It would be inviting to at long distance judge: but I am American, of a Nation that insists on treament of the Saracen in the Middle East in bellicose and ‘Crusading’ (as termed by the CEO-presiding in the USA) ways– which have as far as I can grasp ALWAYS gone over badly in the popular esteem in that Genesis-land, my religion’s homeland. I want to see MY connection as SINNER (what St. Thomas Merton called a GUILTY BYSTANDER) this terror, tribulation, tempest-teratologic.

    To the degree that for-the-sword we bring-the-sword to these Holy Lands, I think there is a systemic problematic. The ‘sword’ of which Jesus teaches in the Gospels at Matthew 10:34 — to the degree that by necessity we view it under the Sermon just 5-3 chapters earlier– and of all things prior in a spirited way– SEEMS TO BE ONE OF NON-VIOLENT NON-COOPERATION WITH EVIL– and the first-bringers of SWORD to the Middle East seem to include the Americans, and their seemingly interminable siege with Abu Graib tortures to Bible Lands. For me– SINNER– as all are in-sin by the words of Jesus in commenting on the publican in Luke 18:13– that is is ME– all MEs– “standing in the need of prayer” (so going an old American Negro spiritual) and reconciliation. I/WE cannnot bring the Gospel of Peace with SWORD– maybe there is a level at which “two swords is enough” only symbolically (the seeming lesson of Luke 22.) And NO swords-of-bloodshed seems to be the goal/objective.

    To me, then, the lesson of war in the Middle-East– my country’s Crusade it would seem, my country’s almost alone– would have to be in a conclusion that this is not a JUST WAR– that we do not ‘do justly love mercy walk humbly’ (cf. Micah 6:8) in this case. Easy judgment of my Arab siblings– the non-Christians-benighted essentially– needs immediately to be preceded with MY OWN burning conscience– as guilty bystander in front of Jaweh. And if judgment begins with US, then may it in assize come to those who obey-not-the-Gospel (cf. 1 Peter 4:17.)

    In Prayer without Ceasing, for my sins, for all sin, I am
    Vernon Lynn Stephens, Culdee
    Day of St. Thomas of Malea
    Day of Great Martyr St. Kyriaki
    Hour of Compline (Anglican Rite)
    Louisville, Kentucky USA

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