Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Coptic Christians in Eqypt – Now and Then

Posted on: March 9, 2011

Things aren’t going well in Egypt.  Police forces – who abandoned their posts at the beginning of the anti-Mubarak protests – have been slow to return.  The army’s in charge, but they don’t have the resources to maintain peace in Cairo, a city of 18 million people, much less the country with a population of 80 million.  This means, of course, that there is no law; that the thugs and thieves and radicals are doing what they do, unfettered.

You’ll recall that the Holy Family sought refuge in Egypt while King Herod hunted for the Savior.  It was a safe and peaceful place occupied by diverse cultures.  After the crucifixion,  the Apostle Mark – a Libyan native – founded  The School of Alexandria in Egypt.  From this school came Coptic Christianity.

The “invasion” of Arab Muslims in the seventh century A.D., ultimately reduced the presence of the Copts to the ten percent minority they are today.  Between then and now, there has been bitterness and war arguably initiated by both sides.  Copts have long believed themselves to be the persecuted.

On New Year’s Day, a suicide bomber detonated in front of a church in Alexandria killing 21 Copts and injuring many others.  The church itself was heavily damaged.  Last week, the central Coptic Church in Cairo was torched by Muslims.  This was the extension of a violent feud between two families over the love affair of a Christian-Muslim couple.  Egyptian generals have pledged to rebuild the church, but no matter; the Copts are in full protest mode in all of the country’s major cities.

Thousand of Christians have massed in front of government and television buildings.  Important highways have been blocked, tires have been burned and cars are being pelted with rocks.

Today, a large group of these protesters were set upon by a mob who shot and killed 13 and wounded 140.  History suggests that this will cause reprisal by the Copts which will bring about response from the Muslims.  It’s a vicious cycle akin to the Israeli/Palestinian conflicts dating back many decades (or centuries, depending on how you choose to count them).

All of this adds to the sense of instability as experienced by Egyptians and perceived by the world community.  While we watch the many Muslims strive for democracy and against corrupt government, there is yet another lesser-known front where a minority are beset by the majority.

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