The war against Copts in Egypt escalates

Rick Moran
According to this Associated Press report, 40 Coptic Christian churches in Egypt have been either torched or severely damaged just since Wednesday.

Most of the attacks have occured away from Cairo and the watchful eyes of the western press. In other provinces, it is clear that Islamists control the streets and police have, if not facilitated some of these attacks by standing by and doing nothing, are powerless to intercede because they, too, are under assault.

After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like "prisoners of war" before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.

In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism.

Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 percent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt's military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi's reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide.

One of the world's oldest Christian communities has generally kept a low-profile, but has become more politically active since Mubarak was ousted and Christians sought to ensure fair treatment in the aftermath.

Many Morsi supporters say Christians played a disproportionately large role in the days of mass rallies, with millions demanding that he step down ahead of the coup.

Despite the violence, Egypt's Coptic Christian church renewed its commitment to the new political order Friday, saying in a statement that it stood by the army and the police in their fight against "the armed violent groups and black terrorism."

Defense minister Col. Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has vowed to rebuild at least some of the churches, but it hardly matters when the government can't guarantee the safety of Christians in majority Muslim communities.

Unless the western world wakes up and demands that Middle Eastern governments protect religious minorities from this kind of persecution, there won't be a Christian church left in the Arab world. Islamists seemed determined to eradicate Christianity from its birthplace - a sad commentary on ignorance, superstition, and hate from many Muslims in the Middle East.

According to this Associated Press report, 40 Coptic Christian churches in Egypt have been either torched or severely damaged just since Wednesday.

Most of the attacks have occured away from Cairo and the watchful eyes of the western press. In other provinces, it is clear that Islamists control the streets and police have, if not facilitated some of these attacks by standing by and doing nothing, are powerless to intercede because they, too, are under assault.

After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like "prisoners of war" before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.

In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism.

Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 percent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt's military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi's reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide.

One of the world's oldest Christian communities has generally kept a low-profile, but has become more politically active since Mubarak was ousted and Christians sought to ensure fair treatment in the aftermath.

Many Morsi supporters say Christians played a disproportionately large role in the days of mass rallies, with millions demanding that he step down ahead of the coup.

Despite the violence, Egypt's Coptic Christian church renewed its commitment to the new political order Friday, saying in a statement that it stood by the army and the police in their fight against "the armed violent groups and black terrorism."

Defense minister Col. Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has vowed to rebuild at least some of the churches, but it hardly matters when the government can't guarantee the safety of Christians in majority Muslim communities.

Unless the western world wakes up and demands that Middle Eastern governments protect religious minorities from this kind of persecution, there won't be a Christian church left in the Arab world. Islamists seemed determined to eradicate Christianity from its birthplace - a sad commentary on ignorance, superstition, and hate from many Muslims in the Middle East.