Violence Against Coptic Christians in Egypt Escalates

egypt-tear-gas-afp“With our blood and soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross.”  Coptic Christian Chant

Perhaps the greatest glory of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the National Church of Egypt, is its Cross– and the persecution that accompanies those that believe. Coptic Christians have resided in Egypt since the 1st century A.D., some 600 years before Muhammad began preaching and 630 years before he solidified Islam.

“… For the four centuries that followed the Arab’s conquest of Egypt, the Coptic Church generally flourished and Egypt remained basically Christian. This is due to a large extent to the fortunate position that the Copts enjoyed, for the Prophet of Islam, who had an Egyptian wife (the only one of his wives to bear a son), preached especial kindness towards Copts: “When you conquer Egypt, be kind to the Copts for they are your protégés and kith and kin”. Copts, thus, were allowed to freely practice their religion and were to a large degree autonomous, provided they continued to pay a special tax, called “Gezya”, that qualifies them as “Ahl Zemma” proteges (protected). Individuals who cannot afford to pay this tax were faced with the choice of either converting to Islam or losing their civil right to be “protected”, which in some instances meant being killed. The Christian face of Egypt started to change by the beginning of the second millennium A.D., when Copts, in addition to the “Gezya” tax, suffered from specific disabilities, some of which were serious and interfered with their freedom of worship. For example, there were restrictions on repairing old Churches and building new ones, on testifying in court, on public behavior, on adoption, on inheritance, on public religious activities, and on dress codes. Slowly but steadily, by the end of the 12th century, the face of Egypt changed from a predominantly Christian to a predominantly Muslim country and the Coptic community occupied an inferior position and lived in some expectation of Muslim hostility, which periodically flared into violence. It is remarkable that the well being of Copts was more or less related to the well-being of their rulers. In particular, the Copts suffered most in those periods when Arab dynasties were at their low”…

As I wrote in a previous article, Egypt: Hell on Earth, the torturous conditions inflicted by the Muslim Brotherhood against Christians and women are escalating rapidly. Christians, who form 10 percent of the population, are finding themselves victims of sweeping annihilation tactics conducted by Muslim radicals.

In recent days, news reports have detailed the violence that erupted outside a Coptic Cathedral during a funeral procession for four murdered Christians.  Police, while maintaining a safe distance from the clashes between Muslims and Christians, fired tear gas with the urging of the riotous mob at the cathedral wall.

“The police are firing [tear gas] at us…they’re taking the [assailants’] side,” shouted one young Coptic man.

From Human Rights Watch:  “…The presidency [Morsi] statement claimed that the Ministry of Interior “immediately intensified its presence in the area to prevent the recurrence of clashes.” However, eyewitness accounts and video footage show that the police failed to effectively intervene to prevent further escalation, and stood by allowing private citizens to attack people on the grounds of the cathedral. They directed tear gas solely at the people on the cathedral walls. Video footage taken by the Egyptian daily Al Masry al Youm shows members of the riot police failing to take any action against men in plainclothes standing next to them and throwing stones towards the cathedral. In some footage, the men who were throwing stones can be seen apparently directing the riot police to shoot tear gas at the cathedral walls, with the riot police complying.

Journalist Alastair Beach, a reporter for the Independent, told Human Rights Watch that he saw a young man carrying a handgun climb onto a roof and open fire in the direction of the cathedral in full view of some 30 CSF officers. They made no effort to stop or arrest him. He said he also saw riot police shoot tear gas into the cathedral compound.

Mina Thabet, a mourner, told Human Rights Watch that he arrived at the cathedral at mid-day, after the start of the funeral service, and was walking with those carrying the caskets to the funeral cars.

“We closed the Cathedral’s gates,” Thabet said, “but some of the men throwing stones started climbing the walls and attacking us from the roofs of the surrounding buildings. This situation lasted for an hour or so before the police came. The CSF were standing in front of the cathedral, and a few minutes later they were shooting tear gas inside of the cathedral, all the way to the Papal compound and the church auditorium…”

(I urge you to watch the linked video. Although in Arabic, the barbarity of police attacking Christians, or nonchalantly watching as others do, must be seen to be believed.)

One victim’s father denounced the attacks committed by security forces against the cathedral after they were seen throwing tear gas into the precincts of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya.

“We thought that you are a president for all Egyptians, but you proved that you are only president for your group,” the victim’s father reportedly said. “You spend the money you have in burning and attacking [the country’s] possessions and its people. What religion says this?”

“We were going to our eldest brother Issa, when four people stopped us and asked my brother Daoud his name,” the victim’s brother, Kyrillos, told Mideast Christian News.

“They searched for the cross on his hand using a flashlight, and when they found the cross on his hand, they stabbed him in his heart.”

What is President Obama’s response to the plight of Copt Christians in Egypt?  As we all know, actions speak louder than words:  the Egyptian government just received a shipment of 140,000 tear gas canisters from…the United States.

“With our blood and soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross.”



Lydia Susanne has conducted exclusive interviews with Israeli author Lela Gilbert, activist and lead singer of KANSAS John Elefonte, Todd Daniels of International Christian Concern, and Bob Fu of China Aid, among other notable subjects for

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