Christians under siege

A few days ago, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacked a Franciscan school in suburban Cairo.

egypt flag on cross 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
egypt flag on cross 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 beginning.
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 or unexpected.
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 Spring.
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 overseas.
Some suffering is not newsworthy.
The nonobjective 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.
They face 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 targets.
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 demonstrators.
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 Israel.
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.