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Friday, October 05, 2012
Egypt's Christians - Distraught and Displaced
Raymond Ibrahim Special to IPT News
October 4, 2012 http://www.investigativeproject.org/3761/guest-column-egypt-christians-distraught
reported last week that "Most Christians living near Egypt's border
with Israel [in the town of Rafah in Sinai] are fleeing their homes
after Islamist militants made death threats and gunmen attacked a
Coptic-owned shop." Photos of desecrated churches and Christian property
show Arabic graffiti saying things like "don't come back" and "Islam is the truth."
All media reports
describe the same sequence of events: 1) Christians were threatened
with leaflets warning them to evacuate or die; 2) an armed attack with
automatic rifles was made on a Christian-owned shop; 3) Christians
abandoned everything and fled their homes.
Anyone following events in Egypt knows that
these three points—threatening leaflets, attacks on Christian property,
followed by the displacement of Christians—are happening throughout
Egypt, and not just peripheral Sinai, even if the latter is the only
area to make it to the Western mainstream media. Consider:
On August 14, El Fegr
reported that leaflets were distributed in areas with large Christian
populations, including Upper Egypt, offering monetary rewards to Muslims
who "kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah—the
Christians in all of Egypt's provinces, the slaves of the Cross,
Allah's curse upon them…"
As a testimony to just how safe the jihadis
feel under Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi—who just freed
a militant jihadi responsible for the burning of a church
leaving several Christians dead—the leaflets named contact points and
even a mosque where Muslims interested in learning more about killing
Christians should rally "after Friday prayers where new members to the
organization will be welcomed."
On the same day these leaflets were
distributed, a separate report titled "The serial killing of Copts has
begun in Asyut" noted that a Christian store-owner was randomly targeted and killed by Salafis.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Properties and Persons
For months, Arabic-Christian media have
been reporting ongoing stories of Muslim "gangs" and "thugs" attacking
Christian homes, abducting the residents, including women and children,
and demanding ransom monies—not unlike what is happening to Christians
in Iraq and Syria. In one particular case,
the Muslim gang attacked the home of a Coptic man, "releasing several
gunshots in the air, and threatening him either to pay or die." The gang
"picked this specific village because Copts form 80% of its
inhabitants." Such reports often conclude with an all too familiar
postscript: Christians calling police for help and filing complaints,
all in vain.
A Coptic Solidarity
report from August 20 titled "Copts in Upper Egypt Attacked, Beat,
Plundered," tells of just that—how Christians are being beat, their
businesses set on fire, and their properties plundered (see also here and here for similar reports). Likewise, according to Al Moheet,
a new human rights report indicates that, in Nag Hammadi alone, there
are dozens of cases of Muslim gangs abducting Christian Copts and
holding them for ransom. Concerning these, the Coptic Church is daily
asking for justice and receiving none.
The exodus of Copts from their homes also has become an ongoing crisis, so much so that a recent statement
by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt lamented the
"repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether
by force or threat." The statement also made clear that what happened in
Sinai is no aberration: "Displacements began in Ameriya, then they
stretched to Dahshur, and today terror and threats have reached the
hearts and souls of our Coptic children in Rafah [Sinai]."
Indeed, back in February, a mob of over 3,000 Muslims attacked and displaced Christians
in the region of Ameriya, due to unsubstantiated rumors that a
Christian man was involved with a Muslim woman. Christian homes and
shops were looted and then torched; "terrorized" women and children who
lost their homes stood in the streets with no place to go. As usual, it
took the army an hour to drive 2 kilometers to the village, and none of
the perpetrators were arrested. Later, a Muslim Council permanently
evicted eight Christian families and confiscated their property, even as
"Muslims insisted that the whole Coptic population of 62 families must
A few weeks ago in Dahshur, after a Christian laundry worker accidently burned the shirt of a Muslim man,
the customer came with a Muslim mob to attack the Copt at home. As the
Christian defended his household, a Muslim was killed. Accordingly,
thousands of Muslims terrorized the area, causing 120 Christian families to flee. One elderly Coptic woman returned home from the bakery to find the area deserted of Christians.
Rioting Muslims looted Christian businesses and homes. Family members
of the deceased Muslim insist that the Christians must still pay with
The same time the media reported about the
displacement of Christians from Rafah, a quarrel between two school
girls—a Christian and a Muslim—ended when several "heavily-armed" Muslims stormed the home of the Christian girl,
causing her family and three other Christian families to flee the
village. When the father returned, he found that all his saved money and
possessions had been plundered. When he asked police for help, the
officer replied, "I can't do anything for you, reconcile with them and
end the problem."
Indeed, this has been the same attitude of
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood led government: in all of the above cases,
the government looked the other way, or, when called on it, denied
reality. Thus the Coptic Holy Synod made it a point to assert in its
statement that "nearly one month ago the media had published the
violations against the Copts but the Egyptian authorities have not taken
the necessary measures to protect the Egyptian families, who have the
right to live safely in their homes." As for the Rafah incident—the only
incident to reach the mainstream media—Prime Minister Hisham Qandil denied
that Christians were forced to flee, saying "One or two [Christian]
families chose to move to another place and they are totally free to do
so like all Egyptian citizens."
Such governmental indifference is
consistent with the fact that, despite promising greater representation
for Egypt's Christians, President Morsi just broke his word by allowing only one Copt—a female—to represent the nation's 10-12 million Christians in the newly formed cabinet.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.