Reports out of Egypt recounted that late Friday violence by ousted President Mohammed Morsi demonstrators resulted in at least six people killed and close to two-hundred suffering injuries requiring medical attention. These reports came from both the Egyptian Health Ministry and Al Arabiya. The clashes broke the calm and quiet of the past two weeks and resulted from the largest demonstrations since the first weeks after Morsi government was replaced by a Military installed interim government until a new constitution and elections can be voted on. Those demonstrations had resulted in hundreds of protesters being killed and almost countless more suffering various extents of injuries. In the interim period numerous Muslim Brotherhood leadership have been arrested and held by the Egyptian military in their efforts to decapitate the leadership of the demonstrations. Chief among those arrested was the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie. As is the usual instigation for these demonstrations, five-hundred demonstrators came straight from Friday prayers leaving from central Cairo’s Sahib Rumi Mosque chanting, “Wake up, don’t be afraid, the army must leave!”; “The interior ministry are thugs!”; and “Egypt is Islamic, not secular!” This resulted in several thousands marching in several other Cairo districts and suburbs by the late afternoon.
The reinitiating of demonstrations, even of a somewhat lesser level of violence, does not bode well for proceeding with an orderly and peaceful transition back to a semblance of a functioning Egyptian democracy in whatever form is decided by the future constitution. Apart from the foreboding that the transit from the Muslim Brotherhood supported Peace and Justice Party dominated parliament with their candidate Morsi as President to a new non-Islamic secular government will be resisted by the Brotherhood and that they have sufficient middle level leadership which has stepped up to replace those who the Egyptian military has already arrested. This poses yet another challenge to the Egyptian people who are the impetus behind the call for new government which is secular and not under the thumb of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Unfortunately, transiting to secular governance may not be the biggest problem facing the world from out of Egypt. The problem will require the intervention of outside interests to force an alternative for the Coptic Christians, as they are victims of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, while not raising sufficient concern that the Egyptian military or the Egyptian public will act; so they need an outside interest to lead the way to a solution. The Coptic Christians have become the punching bag for every angry group looking for somebody to blame and persecute to relieve their anger. The Coptic Christians are an easily found and defenseless group whose safety and property are not worthy of protection by the authorities. They have faced broad based violence resulting in burning down of their churches, businesses and even their homes. Some of the churches and monasteries that have been destroyed are of great historic value but since they are not Islamic they are considered worthless and not worth preserving by the Egyptian military, the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists. Add to this the situation in the Sinai Peninsula with the infestation of terrorists and the Egyptian military and people have their challenges before them, and these are dangerous and serious challenges. The future in Egypt will eventually settle down, it just does not appear that eventually will come easy or soon. The one item which should not be left to the Egyptians is the safety and future of the Coptic Christians. This is one problem which will fall on the Christian world to address and will serve as the measure of the compassion in the Christian world. The simple truth is that the Egyptian military would probably assist to a minimal extent any Christian efforts if it would remove the Coptic Christians from being something which will only reflect poorly on the reputation of Egypt in the eyes of much of the world. Should the Egyptian authorities, military or civilians, find a solution which permits the Coptic Christians to be rescued from the dangers they currently are facing, would be a major step towards revamping the Egyptian’s reputations. Will anybody from the Christian world step forward or will the Christian world share the shame for the persecution of the Coptic Christians, one of the oldest and most pure to their roots Christian populations in the world.
Beyond the Cusp
Some are wondering why the current violence in Egypt has been restricted to mostly victimizing the Coptic Christians while there are no reports of any other religiously persecuted groups. Most obvious by their absence as victims of the current violence in Egypt are the Jews. The reasons behind this require a quick refreshing look at recent history since 1948 and the founding of Israel. Upon the founding of the Jewish State of Israel on May 14, 1948 Egypt was one of the numbers of Arab nations which declared war intending to eradicate both the nation and Jewish people of Israel. At the time of the founding of the State of Israel there were approximately 75,000 Jews residing in Egypt. After years of pogroms, bombings, riots and other violence the Jewish population had seen 40% of their population emigrate by 1950. This reduced the number of Jews left residing in Egypt to around 45,000 with most of them residing in either Alexandria or Cairo. The next major event was the 1956 Suez War where French, British and Israeli forces attacked Egypt in order to force Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser to reopen the Suez Canal to international shipping after he had nationalized the canal and began denying western shipping the use of this vital waterway. Subsequent to this conflict it was announced that the “all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state,” and would soon be expelled. After this declaration some one-thousand Jews were arrested and imprisoned while nearly half the remaining Egyptian Jews fled Egypt for Israel, Europe and the Americas. Upon leaving these Jews were forced to sign declarations that they were leaving voluntarily and had agreed to the confiscation of their wealth, property and other assets. This left a mere 25,000 Jews living in Egypt with a large percentage of this population being elderly. The final event came after the 1967 Six Day War which began with Egypt closing the Straits of Tiran, massing troops and armor divisions on the Israeli border along with Syria massing on Israel’s northern border both nations threatening immediate annihilation of the Jewish State. Israel responded to this casus-belli with a preemptive assault defeating both enemies plus Jordan who declared war on Israel soon after hostilities began. After the Six Day War almost all the remaining Jews were forced to emigrate after having their wealth, properties and anything of value confiscated while some of the male Jews above the age of eighteen were imprisoned and tortured for three to five years and then made to leave Egypt. There is now but a tiny remnant remains numbering under one hundred all of which are aged with no younger generations of Jews so once these few die there will be no Jews remaining in Egypt.
So, when religious violence broke out after the removal of President Morsi by the Egyptian military there was not a sufficient population of Jews to target which left only the Coptic Christians and Shiite Muslims for the Sunni members of the Muslim Brotherhood to victimize. This is the main driving reason for the seeming singular persecution of the Coptic Christian population as they number anywhere from five to twelve million persons depending on which source one chooses. Even at the lowest estimate of around five million the Coptic Christians far outnumber the under one-hundred remaining aged Jews. The Coptic Christian population also far outnumbers the Shiite Muslim Population in Egypt as there are estimated to be anywhere from a few thousands to as many as eight million with the recognized number being around one million. So, now that we have discussed the numbers which reveal and make obvious the reason behind why we are hearing about violence against the Coptic population in Egypt and not about any violence against Jews or Shiite Muslims whose numbers are quite small by comparison, it honestly is all about availability of people to target. No matter the reason underlying the victimization of Coptic Christians and the destruction of their churches, monasteries, businesses, homes and other properties as well as the assaults, murders, and forced conversion and marrying young Coptic women to Muslim men, often to men far older than the woman and under threat of torturing and killing of their families in order to force compliance, human compassion and especially Christian compassion needs to spur action to protect the victims from such crimes fueled purely by hatred and religious persecution.
As horrid the pictures and news out of Egypt reporting of the violence and destruction of the Coptic population and property in Egypt may be, it pales when compared to the silence and complete lack of action by the remainder of the Christian world in response to the violence being perpetrated on their fellow Christians. What makes this passivity in the face of Christian persecution is made all the worse when one realized that the Coptic Christians are the descendants of some of the oldest Christian communities dating their origins to their being brought to Christendom by Saint Mark in the city of Alexandria in the year 42AD. This victimization of the Coptic Christians should serve as a warning for all Christendom as to their future should Israel ever be destroyed thus leaving the Christian populations as the largest and often sole non-Muslim population throughout much of the Middle East and the rest of the Arab and Muslim worlds. What is currently befalling the Coptic Christians in Egypt is the same fate that awaits the Christians within Israel and in a slightly lesser extent already befallen the Christians in the Palestinian controlled areas of Gaza and the West Bank. One need not look any further than the numbers of Christians residing in Bethlehem where in 1947 the Christians made up 85% of Bethlehem’s population which declined by 1998 to a mere 40% of Bethlehem’s population. There are differing numbers pertaining to the numbers of Christians remaining in Bethlehem today but most agree they are now less than one quarter of the population and still in decline. Researching Christian population numbers throughout the Middle East and North Africa one will realize that the Christian population has been generally in decline across the entire area and their numbers decreased at a greatly accelerated rate once the Jewish population either emigrated or was otherwise diminished to a point where the Jewish numbers were negligible. The sole nation which attests to an increasing number of Christians is Israel despite the falling numbers in the Palestinian controlled areas, whether controlled by the Palestinians Authority or Hamas. The only advice history might provide Christians at this point in history is they need to protect their fellow Christians who are under assault which currently is most obvious in Egypt where open hostilities are on display and the Coptic Christians are helpless victims. It is time for all Christians to protest the victimization of the Coptic Christians and put aside any differences their particular sect may have with the Coptic Christians as such things are of little importance when Christian lives are on the line. If the world’s Christians are unable to protect the Coptic Christians within Egypt then it is dependent upon the Christians to provide the Coptic Christians a path to escape the Egyptian violence and to provide welcoming arms to care and assist fellow Christians to pick up their lives and make a new start. What else can be said other than it is the Christian thing to do.
Beyond the Cusp