A few days ago, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacked a Franciscan
school in suburban Cairo. They pulled down a cross, smashed it to bits and
replaced it with the black flag of al-Qaida. That was just the
They looted the school, gutted it meticulously for hours, and
later burned down what remained of the classrooms.
Then came the climax
as three nuns were grabbed and paraded through the streets like humiliated
prisoners of war.
The frenzied throngs spat on the helpless captives,
poured refuse on them, slapped and groped at them and heaped abuse and scorn.
This too lasted for hours during which the nuns literally ran the gauntlet, not
knowing where they were headed.
The sacking of the school was not unique
Egypt’s Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the 80
million population, have long been hounded and persecuted.
Their lot grew
alarmingly dire after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and during the short-lived
tenure of Mohamed Morsi.
That said, none of the pre-Morsi regimes can be
described as having gone out of it way to safeguard the beleaguered religious
minority from plunder, murder, abductions of women and their involuntary
conversions and forced marriages to Muslims. Despite occasional lip service, no
real succor was offered.
The recent unrest has only escalated the peril
to unprecedented proportions. This is not just payback for the fact that the
Christians on the whole cheered Morsi’s removal.
What is happening in
Egypt is not radically different from the anti-Christian ardor that has swept
through much of the embattled Middle East ever since the advent of the Arab
Incredibly, all this appears to pass right under the radar of
Western media. Ostensibly undetected and barely reported, anti-Christian drives
stand out as yet further illustrations of mind-boggling selectivity by the press
Some suffering is not newsworthy.
criteria for free world outrage are particularly mystifying given the fact that
hardest hit of all are the native churches – such as Syria’s Assyrians or
Egypt’s Copts. These are among Christianity’s oldest sects and their members
comprise the vestiges of ancient indigenous populations.
xenophobic fanaticism reminiscent of that brazenly practiced by Afghanistan’s
Taliban honchos. In 2001, the latter dynamited the 6th-century monumental Buddha
statues of Bamiyan – an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site that offended Muslim
fundamentalists for supposedly embodying idol worship. Some of Egypt’s Taliban
counterparts have already served warning that they will target the Pyramids. But
meanwhile, the ultra-vulnerable and reviled Copts are much easier and softer
Dozens of churches, monasteries and schools have been ransacked
during the past few weeks, with Morsi supporters whipping up passions by
accusing the Copts of having orchestrated the killing of pro-Brotherhood
The Copts – whose Church traces its origins to 50 CE
Alexandria – are now popularly portrayed as foreign interlopers who scheme to
undermine Islam in the Land of the Nile.
Although the Copts were never
remotely a friendly force so far as Israel was concerned – to no small degree
feeling obliged to curry favor with the Muslim and nationalist Arab majority –
their current travails are evocative of Egypt’s ethic cleansing of its Jews
between 1948 and 1956.
Effectively, Egypt had been rendered judenrein.
These days, many Copts are emigrating.
In the region as a whole,
Christians account for between 2% and 5% of the region’s population, versus 20%
100 years ago. Lebanon’s Christians are at the mercy of the Shi’ite Hezbollah,
whereas in Syria Christians are victimized by Sunnis. In Iraq they are walloped
by everyone. In the Palestinian Authority Christian numbers are falling sharply
too, as evidenced by the Muslim majority in once- Christian Bethlehem. Gaza’s
Christians are running for their lives.
The one steadily growing
Christian community in the Middle East is to be found in much-maligned little
Only under Jewish sovereignty are Christians safe and free from
serial terror and harm. But the one beacon of genuine liberality in an unkind
and callously intolerant region is hardly likely to win accolades from the
self-styled enlightened world.
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