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No Peace for Coptic Christians in Egypt

By Michael Terheyden
April 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In an endless cycle of meaningless violence, Muslims have attacked their Coptic Christian neighbors yet again. It seems there is no rhyme or reason in Egypt these days, only rumors and violence, shadows and blood born out of ignorance and hatred.

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - In an endless cycle of meaningless violence, Muslims have attacked their Coptic Christian neighbors yet again. It seems there is no rhyme or reason in Egypt these days, only rumors and violence, shadows and blood born out of ignorance and hatred.

Of course, there are always explanations each time violence erupts. Some of the explanations for this latest round of violence are as follows:

According to reports, it began around April 5 in the Khosous district just outside Cairo. Swastikas had been drawn on a mosque. Some Muslims blamed Christian children, but Mohamad Yousry, the local security force manager, said two Muslim children did it, and that the mosque Imam had confronted the Muslim children about it. Nevertheless, rumors about Christians defacing the mosque created a stir within the Muslim community.

As a result of the rumors, a mob of Muslims gathered near Saint George's Coptic Church. Copts responded to the threatening mob by forming a human shield to protect the church. Then people heard the gunshots. When it was over, four Copts and one Muslim lay dead in front of the church. Security forces arrived about five hours later. Fighting could be heard throughout the night, and some Christian buildings were set on fire.

Father Sourial Younan believes another reason may have sparked the violence. He said that some Muslims had sexually harassed some Coptic girls. A Coptic activist, Nader Shoukry, believes the incident was instigated by a neighboring Muslim religious institution in order to "purify the region of Christians."

But the violence did not end that night. A funeral for the four dead Copts was held at Saint Mark's Church in Cairo on April 7. As the Copts funneled out of the church for the funeral procession, they were attacked again. This time Muslims threw stones and Molotov cocktails at them. Muslims also set fire to the Mar Girgis kindergarten, a Baptist church, and some Christian shops. When it was over, at least one person was killed and about 80 people were injured.

Father Suriel, who serves at the church of Mar Girgis, believes "some imams incited a mob against the Copts and the church during a meeting in the mosque." Others believe the violence was orchestrated by the Morsi government "to cover up the turmoil and demonstrations in the country."

However, Muslim leaders denounced the violence, at least publicly. President Mohamed Morsi  said, "Every attack on the cathedral is an attack on my person." The Muslim Brotherhood called on all Egyptians to "reject and condemn violence. The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb said, "the blood of all the Egyptians is precious."

But based on another report, we are told that the Interior Ministry issued a statement blaming the violence outside Saint Mark's Church on the Coptic funeral mourners. In the midst of this latest round of violence and the conflicting statements, Tawadros II, the Coptic Patriarch, emphasized calm, people's safety and Egyptian unity. 

One thing is for certain, the Copts are caught in an endless cycle of violence with their Muslim neighbors. Furthermore, this violence is often ignited by nothing more than baseless rumors. To me, this is a sign of ignorance and hatred, and it reminds me how easily ignorant, hate-filled people can be manipulated by those with power and influence.

Clearly, the Coptic Christians suffering such hell at the hands of their neighbors need our prayers, but so do all Egyptians. No one is safe in a land filled with murky shadows and blood. 

 
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Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

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