Category Archives: Copts

Who Is Sending Guns To The Copts?

By Martin Roth

Last week, at the conclusion of a post about Egypt titled ARAB SPRING NOT LOOKING SO SPRINGLIKE, Professor Glenn Instapundit Reynolds asked: “Meanwhile, is there anyone sending guns to the Copts?”

I quickly emailed to say that my latest novel, The Coptic Martyr of Cairo, told a story of a Christian militia traveling to Cairo to help a church under attack from Islamists.

This led to a plug for the book the next day, with Instapundit writing:

YESTERDAY I ASKED IF ANYONE WAS SENDING GUNS TO THE COPTS. Martin Roth emails: “In my latest thriller, The Coptic Martyr of Cairo, a Christian militia team arrives (from Korea) to help a Coptic church under attack from Islamists.” Okay. Is anyone sending non-fictional guns to the Copts?

Well, now it seems we have an answer of sorts. The Los Angeles Times, in a report titled Egypt’s Coptic Christians live in fear of Islamic extremists, writes:

“Mubarak painted a pretty picture but he didn’t help us,” said Wadie, who plans to leave Egypt after he receives a master’s degree. “Today, things are more systematic against us. Copts are definitely arming themselves, but the problem is the weapons dealers are Muslims.”

More Killings of Copts in Egypt

The killing continues in Egypt. Four Coptic Christians were killed north of Cairo over the weekend, and one more outside the cathedral in Cairo.

The BBC’s correspondent writes:

The priest of the local church, Father Sourial Yunnan, told us that after living peacefully with their Muslim neighbours for so long, conditions for Christians in Egypt had deteriorated under the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. He, like many, believes worse is yet to come.

Back at the cathedral, the funerals turned into a demonstration against Egypt’s ruling party. It spilled out into the streets and there were clashes with police and locals. It was an outpouring of rage, but also fear about the future.

A correspondent for The Independent agrees:

Many fear the real danger could come if the Muslim Brotherhood, which has seen its popularity recede in recent months, feels directly threatened by widespread unrest, triggered by anger at the worsening economic situation. Many will worry that if it casts about for someone to blame, the finger might fall on the country’s already persecuted Copts.

Andrew Stuttaford says simply at National Review Online:

Somehow I think that it will not be too long before there is another exodus from Egypt.

Here is a brief excerpt from my book, “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo” –

A look of anger crossed Father Youssef’s face. “And now things are getting worse. We get many, many attacks on our churches. The police often won’t help. We can’t get permits to build or renovate our churches. Muslims can build as many mosques as they wish, but we have trouble adding one new toilet to a church building. Some professions are effectively closed to Christians. Young Muslim kids in some towns grow up being taught to spit on Christians. Out in the country there are increasing numbers of young Christian women being kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Sometimes they are threatened with rape if they don’t convert. Some have committed suicide. Others have been converted by force. And then, even if they escape they are expected to remain Muslim, because the laws make it almost impossible to convert from Islam to Christianity. On Fridays you walk through the streets of suburbs like this one and for morning prayers you can hear some imams preach hate-filled sermons from loudspeakers on the top of their minarets. They call Christians dogs and unclean and unbelievers and Crusaders and friends of the Zionists. Or they say Christians worship many gods, because of the trinity.”

“Wow,” muttered Brett.

Egyptian Coptic Christians Fly to Jerusalem for Easter

An interesting development in the Mideast – Egyptian Coptic Christians are flying to Jerusalem on an Easter pilgrimage. Previously they had been told by the late Pope Shenouda to stay away from the city while it remained under Israeli control.

According to Israel’s Y-Net News –

Some 50 Copts arrived in Israel on Thursday on a direct flight from Egypt to celebrate Monday of the third week of Easter, which takes place on April 15. The guests plan to tour holy sites in Jerusalem….This is just the second time since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979 that a group of Copts arrives in Israel from Egypt, mainly because of the ban.

 An Egyptian security source at the Cairo airport told Palestinian news agency Maan that additional groups would fly to Israel in the coming days, and that the total number of tourists could reach up to 4,000 people…Nevertheless, several senior Coptic Church officials have stressed in the past that the prohibition to visit Jerusalem was still valid and that there had been no decision to cancel it. As they did last year, church officials are threatening to punish anyone going to Jerusalem.

The Egypt Independent added –

Security sources at the Cairo International Airport said Air Sinai planned to construct an air bridge between Cairo and Tel Aviv to accommodate the pilgrims with four flights per day.

Amnesty International Condemns Discrimination Against Coptic Christians

By Martin Roth

It’s good to see Amnesty International recognizing the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Here’s just a small part of the organization’s statement:

Human rights organisations including Amnesty International have, over time, documented a pattern of discrimination against Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Under Hosni Mubarak, at least 15 major attacks on Copts were documented and the situation didn’t improve under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which ruled the country between the downfall of Hosni Mubarak and the election of President Mohamed Morsi.

In 2013, Coptic Christian activists reported at least four attacks on Churches or affiliated buildings in addition to Wasta, taking place in the Governorates of Aswan, Beni Suef, Cairo, and Fayoum.

The authorities’ response to the violence has been poor, at best.

They have often favoured “reconciliation” over the prosecution of offenders as a way to address sectarian violence.

In addition, both Hosni Mubarak and the SCAF failed to end discriminatory practices preventing Copts from building or restoring houses of worship.

Churches have been closed or destroyed because the authorities alleged that the communities did not have the correct permissions to build or renovate. Presidential Decree 291/2005 makes repair or expansion of Christian churches subject to a permit from the regional governor. In some cases, this has reportedly been used by the local authorities to delay or impede the construction or repair of churches.

Another Friday, Another Coptic Church Attacked – While Western Christians Do Nothing

By Martin Roth

Muslims demonstrators have set fire to the Church of St. Georgas in the village of Sarsena, about 60 miles south-west of Cairo.

According to AsiaNews.it –

The local Salafist fringe led the attack against the Copts, pitting the Muslims against the community, branding the church as “illegal”, because it is close to an area inhabited by Muslims and “for this reason has to be removed.” They are imposing the demolition of the building and have prevented the priest, Father Domadios from entering. Some witnesses reported that the scene was also attended by police, who did nothing to prevent the violence.

The church of St. Georgas was built in the mid-80s and is a point of encounter and prayer for 200 Coptic families. About three months ago, some Muslims made a hole in the wall, to “monitor” the activities of Christians. Yesterday the priest’s attempts at mediation proved worthless.  He was joined by the local police chief, who arrived on site to try to find an agreement between the parties.

Firm in their positions, hundreds of Islamic extremists – in front of the police – started throwing stones at the church. The attackers injured – not seriously – some Copts and Father Domadios, who managed to flee to safety with the help of a Muslim family aboard their car.

It is little wonder that New York’s Brooklyn Daily, in a column titled “Discrimination against Christians soars around the Islamic world” wrote:

Their persecution is a forgotten epidemic. It barely registers a blip on a public radar in our nation where civil rights attorneys sue the NYPD for daring to keep an eye on Muslims as part of their counter-terrorism efforts.

…Incidents of Christian persecution in the Muslim world are staggering. But not a peep, mind you, out of Muslims who are too busy crying wolf. We don’t need Ash Wednesday to reflect on the rampant, unchecked violence directed at Christians — but it’s as good a time as any to start.

God At Work In The Midst Of The Persecution Of The Church In Egypt

By Martin Roth

Christians may despair that all the news coming out of Egypt is so bad – continual and escalating attacks on the Coptic Christian minority. Where is God, they wonder.

A long and wonderful interview in the Christian Post with Pastor Dr. Sameh Maurice of Cairo’s Al-Dubara Evangelical Church shows that God is active in the country. Read it all. Here are a few excerpts:

We were praying for Egypt for 10 years. The year before [the Arab Spring revolution] we had a clear message: “This year something unique would happen which will change the land.” We put up a banner: “What I’m going to do for you is awesome.” So when the revolution came we weren’t shocked.

Because we expected this from God, we weren’t shocked because we were looking for something special to happen that very year; it made us ready to react properly.

As well we had been very much involved in human rights. We set up an NGO as part of our church ministry to deal with human rights, plus our geographic location. We are in [Tahrir] Square where the revolution happened. We had two options: close the doors and say we aren’t here or open the doors and say we are here. Every Friday we were invited to go into the square and pray and worship the Lord as Muslims did. We were invited.

…The church reacted, led by God, to say what should be said, to do what should be done, and in the small things we did, we were thanked and praised by anyone. After the resignation of Mubarak, we held the first celebration. We invited the core people of the revolution: media, families of the martyrs, Muslim leaders, to thank them and honor them, to give them gifts. We did it spontaneously, but we believe we were led by the Spirit. We were the first to do so. So the media publicized this and since then we became close friends of the famous names of the revolution. We were the first to bring them together over coffee to discuss their future. And since we weren’t into politics, we could get them to cooperate. We did it innocently but whatever we could do we did it. We brought them together to get them to know each other. We did small things.

With the second wave of the revolution, which was the fall of 2011… we opened the church as a field hospital. Again the spot light came on us. We did it out of love and patriotism, God made something of it. It was known and appreciated by everyone…We became like a bridge builder between the Christian and Muslim community. Working and helping each other, all on a Christian basis.

We also became a prophetic voice of the church. The church became proud of what we were doing so they expected us to lead them in what to say and do. They trusted our agenda, even the Orthodox (Coptic) Church.

By the grace of God, what we did, saved the face of Christianity, in front of Christians and Muslims. In the beginning the official Orthodox stand was supporting the government, Mubarak against the revolution. To have someone else supporting the flags of the revolution, saved our face (Christianity) to the Muslim world, especially after the success of the revolution. Otherwise we would have been discredited. The Orthodox realized that and thanked us. To my surprise I thought they would resent us, but we found favor in their eyes.

…We are in a new day. As evangelicals we were the nobody person. For the first time we are seen and heard by the whole community. The church started to be seen by Muslims in a very different way. Muslims used to hate, disrespect and ignore the church. Now many of them respect the church because they can now compare between the church and what the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (Islamists) do. They see the difference. As you read tweets you can see that. “The Muslim Brotherhood is killing us and the church is healing us.” Despised, hated, neglected, some of them, about 30% see us in a different way. There has been increased number of conversions to Christ in a big way.

So of course the church has been attacked, last September, by assailants hurling gas bombs and stones.

And Pastor Maurice ends the interview on an ominous note, looking ahead:

There are two possible scenarios.

First Islamists will take over. Freedom will be suppressed, persecution will come. Many Christians in the rural area today are being persecuted. Homes and fields and shop are being taken from them. In cities because of the population it is not that bad. Islamists take away land and shops by violence and guns and the government is not protecting Christians.

So if the Islamists take over we expect persecution and we expect the economy will collapse, people will starve.

Second scenario: liberals will win, meaning civil views, rejecting theocratic rule, as the Islamists want, and advocating instead democracy and freedom, not associating religion with political dominance.

If this side wins (and we believe they are the majority) the battle, we will have more freedom, economy will improve.

But if the first comes, the church will go underground and be oppressed. If the second comes, then we will be more seen and be able to bring truth and love to the people of Egypt. We are working to prepare ourselves for either scenario.

Out Of The Frying Pan…Egyptian Coptic Christians Seek Refuge In Russia

The excellent AsiaNews.it news service carries a sad story about persecuted Egyptian Coptic Christians fleeing their homes for refuge in Russia.

Tragically, they are not especially welcome.

The family say they fled religious persecution from Islamist groups…in Marsa Matrouh, near the border with Libya. “They threatened us with death if we didn’t convert and make our women and girls wear a veil,” Reda, 26, who fled with his 19 year old pregnant wife told AsiaNews.

“After the revolution many activists of the Muslim Brotherhood came,” added his brother Viktor, 30, “who put pressure on us Christians to convert. Our problems started already in late 2011, but are getting worse. Last year, after an argument with the principal of the school, who wanted to force my daughter to wear the hijab, we were told that the presence of Christians in the city was no longer welcome. We sought shelter with a local priest…but his church had already been burned once and so he did not want to further expose himself to attack.”

Now all 10 Egyptians, plus Iraqis and Sudanese, are forced to live in a room of 20 square meters, with only a few chairs and a table, because there is no temporary accommodation center for immigrants waiting to receive refugee status in the city.

Today we get another report of the ethnic cleansing of Christians that is taking place in Syria. Egypt has not yet reached that point. But the fact that Egyptian Christians are fleeing to Russia is evidence that conditions for many are turning desperate.

Kidnap of Egyptian Copts – A Growing Business

By Martin Roth

Do a Google search of “kidnap” and “Copts” and you will receive hundreds of thousands of references. It is also one of the themes of my novel “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo.”

The Bulletin of the Oppression of Women carries just one horrific example, of a 20-year-old devoutly Christian woman who disappeared while on her way to college, almost certainly a kidnap victim.

Hundreds of young Coptic women…have left home under mysterious circumstances or simply vanished…Surrounding most disappearances are allegations that the women have been kidnapped by a small number of fundamentalist Muslim gangs or men working on their own, and forced to undergo conversion to Islam through intimidation, violence and rape.

Now the Coptic Solidarity website says that the kidnapping of wealthy Copts and blackmailing them to pay ransom has become “a dominant trend” since the January 2011 Revolution.

A number of criminals have specialized in executing such operations in collusion with the police, including a certain Nofal Rabie. The security forces sought Rabie’s help to eliminate a number of Jihadists, and in return allowed him to impose ransoms on Coptic dealers.

On December 1, 2011, unknown armed assailants stopped Pharmacist Michelle William and Dr. Magdy Helmy on their return home from work, kidnapped them and blackmailed their families. The families responded and paid 600,000 Egyptian Pounds [about $90,000] to release them. This incident was the first in what became a growing trend.

…The incident pushed Nag Hamadi’s Bishop to hold a press conference in early January to bring attention to the number of kidnappings that have targeted Copts and to pressure security forces to stop the phenomenon.

Observers described the repetition of kidnapping cases as a systematic attempt to drain the wealth of Copts, as the city includes a large number of wealthy Copts who have more money than influence. Copts frequently face attempts of blackmail from thugs, while similar crimes involving the kidnapping of Muslims are rare.