Friday, October 18, 2013

Blog #6: Coptic Christians Still Feel Persecution After Church Attacks

     With the removal of the former president Mohammed Morsi in July, a wave of Islamic anger has been extensive in Egypt. Within days nearly 40 churches, mainly Coptic “meaning Egyptian” Christian, were set fire and looted while 23 others were severely damaged across Egypt. Some of these attacks began as retaliation for the Christian’s support of the ousted President; however most of the destruction is being blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood, in turn, has denied any involvement in the attacks. Since these incidents, tensions between Coptic Christians and the Muslim Brotherhood still continue to steadily rise. Coptic Christian leaders say these attacks are the worst in centuries and feel the protection of their heritage now takes on a greater urgency. Egypt’s military has pledged to restore the affected churches, but has since made any concrete steps to begin this process. While Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million citizens, there has been a historical sense of persecution to the Coptic culture. The unwillingness by authorities and increase in attacks has led to their deep sense of helplessness and vulnerability.

     The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of Christianity’s earliest branches where most Coptic Christians belonged to. A sense of secrecy and protection has been ingrained within the Coptic culture due to the continuous deep persecution.  Bishop Biemen, abbot of the Monastery of Archangel Michael stated, “Because we have been hurt so often, we have become an insular community. That has created a sort of mystique about us that included tales of priceless jewels hidden in churches.” Most of the July attacks took place in southern Egypt which consists of a mixture of powerful Islamic radicals and Christian communities. Some of the churches were gutted by fire or stripped bare of its contents. Some looters dug under altars in search of buried treasure while others caused destruction to the face, hands and feet of many sculptures and statues. To show resilience, masses and weddings were still held in the blackened shells of these churches. Some even went a step further. To avert more trouble, one church changed Friday mass to be held earlier in the day so congregants may leave and lock the church gates before Muslims finished their noon prayers at the nearby mosque. Jihan Bramble, a Christian engineer stated, “The problem is not one of loss, it is to do with psychology. This is the price of freedom for now. But our persecution will continue indefinitely. It always has.” 

Elaine Etzler

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