Obama administration support for Muslim Brotherhood is lost on Egypt's Christians
The Coptic Catholic parish of St George, in the village of Delgia, about 245 miles south of Cairo, was attacked by Muslim extremists as chaos and violence reigned during the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi. On July 4, three groups Islamist of looted the pastor’s house and burned church buildings.
According to Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna there were no victims or injuries but the community's alarm continues. “The fundamentalists have closed the roads at the entrance to the village. They shout slogans against Christians, they say they want to destroy everything and now they are trying again to storm the church. The local police are helpless, I called Cairo to ask for the intervention of the army." said Bishop Hanna in an interview with the Fides news agency.
So far the attack on the parish of St George is the most serious incident of violence against Christians recorded in the dramatic hours experienced in Egypt with the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi. But threats and intimidation against Christian communities also occur elsewhere in the country.
The upheaval in Egypt that brought down the decades-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and ushered in a government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood saw an increased in attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority, which has been targeted by arson, beatings, rape and forced conversions since the beginning of the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Clashes between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi and other times of upheaval, Egypt's Christians have been subjected to violence. Recent days have not been an exception. Dozens have lost their lives since 2011, due to violence.
Churches and monasteries have been bombed and torched, Christian women have been raped and forced to wear Muslim garb and forcibly converted to Islam, according to reports by human rights organizations.
The Christian community of Egypt comprises roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population of 80 million. They belong mostly to the Coptic Orthodox Church although some are Greek Orthodox, and Catholics. They live predominantly the largest cities, Cairo and Alexandria.
Since the beginning of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, they have suffered constant harassment, and dozens have lost their lives to violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood had taken a public stance against the targeting of Christians. Not only did President Morsi condemn violence against Christians, he appointed numerous Christians as ministers and advisers in his government. It is the Salafist movement, a fundamentalist Islamic group that strategically joined the liberal forces in the the coalition against Morsi, that has been largely blamed for the attacks against Christians.
The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, was present at the televised announcement of the overthrow of President Morsi, along with Muslim religious leaders. Some Christian leaders had expressed approval of the Tamarod "rebel" movement that brought down Hosni Mubarak. “How wonderful are the Egyptian people recovering their stolen revolution in a civilized manner with the idea of Tamarod and its great youth’s sacrifice,” tweeted Tawadros. The Coptic Orthodox leader also tweeted support of the removal of Morsi, paying tribute to “three greats of Egypt — the people, the army and the youth.”
The Tamarod movement collected 22 million petitions demanding Morsi's resignation. Heralded as a victory for democracy, Morsi was elected president after a runoff in which he narrowly won with 51.7% of the 25 million ballots cast, or 13 million votes. He later was blamed for burgeoning unemployment and a turn towards Islamism.
“With the revolution [Christians] have discovered their freedom, and they intend to fight with the rest of the population to have a life worth living, a life worthy of a man,” said Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of Alexandria in an interview with The Holy Land Review (TerraSanta.net).
(H.H. Tawadros II)
Both the Catholic and Orthodox spiritual leaders have encouraged the youth of Egypt not to back down and to demand that Egypt’s government reflect a democratic constitution that includes tolerance for all. Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Conference, told Aid to the Church in Need the fall of Morsi marked a “new political beginning” and “a joyous day for us Christians in Egypt and for all Egyptians.” Rev. Greiche added, “We hope that we will not be excluded from the political process that lies before us,” and that “ the non-Islamist opposition has found a new unity,” while opining that the Egyptian people were rejecting the Brotherhood’s neglect of the economy as they pursued the building up of a new Caliphate in the Middle East.
Observers in Egypt have pointed out that Morsi's fall from power may be decisive for Christianity in the country. They have the most to lose in the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and its detractors. It was under Morsi that the situation for Egypt's Christian was the most dire. For Christians in Egypt, who have been present since the first days of Christianity, the current uncertainty is preferable to annihilation. It was under Morsi that relations between Egypt's Muslims and Christians reached its lowest point in 60 years. An attack in broad daylight by Islamists against the cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo, the seat of Coptic Orthodoxy, was unprecedented. And more than 500 Christian women have been abducted, raped, made to face forced conversion or forced marriage.
Just going to divine services is an act of faith and courage, and sometime martyrdom, for Egyptian Christians. The Muslim Brotherhood's enforcers of Islamic sharia law, known as mutawa, are known to gather outside of churches to harass Christian women for not conforming to Islamic standards of dress. The mutawa demand that women be covered head to foot in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic tradition. Women, whether Christian or Muslim, are attacked by the mutawa for the supposed crime of wearing makeup or high heels. Some have been beaten severely or killed by the mutawa. And during the demonstrations prior to the fall of both Mubarak and Morsi, women were subjected to being publicly stripped nude and gang raped by Islamists. Among the victims of the so-called Arab Spring was an American journalist, Lara Logan, in February 2011. Recently, female journalists from France and The Netherlands were raped in Cairo by mobs.
Christians are streaming out of Egypt, as they are from other Muslim-majority countries such as Iraq. The Coptic Orthodox Church in North America is expecting a huge influx of Christian refugees from Egypt to continue for the foreseeable future. The Coptic Orthodox Church is preparing to assist refugees from Egypt with social services and English-language classes.
Egypt’s military has declared a state of emergency in various parts of Egypt, while the Muslim Brotherhood plans to strike back. Both Morsi, and the movement's spiritual leader - Muhammed Badie - remain under house arrest. Many observers have concluded that Egypt remains in a state of civil war. Many Christians and Muslims have rejected media descriptions of the revolution as a military coup, praising the Army for coming out as it did in the January 2011 revolution against Mubarak.
There is anger being directed against President Barack Obama for supposedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. There are media reports that US Ambassador Ann Patterson pressured Pope Tawadros to condemn the Tamarod protests, while giving the Muslim Brotherhood assurances that the US government would exert pressure regionally in support. Protesters have denounced both Obama and Patterson by name with signs written in English. Christians in Egypt expressed astonishment that the US would support the Islamist government of Egypt since it threatened the very existence of Israel. The goal proclaimed by Muhammed Badie, who is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, to unite all Muslims into a single theocratic state or caliphate, would spell doom for Israel since the projected capital would be Jerusalem.
It has been noticed in Egypt that the Obama administration did not speak out against the excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood and its violent persecution of Christians and moderate Muslims, not only in Egypt, but also in Libya, Tunisia, and Syria. In Syria, Christians have been targeted specifically by Islamist rebels aligned against the Assad regime. Two bishops, abducted in April, remain unaccounted for and are feared to have been murdered by Islamist rebels in Syria. Some have pointed out that the only supporters of the United States in the Mideast, besides Israel, were Christians. Obama's inaction may have diminished Christian support for him and his administration.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.
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