• Fingers pointed at Muslim Brotherhood for coordinated assaults
By Pete Papaherakles
Massive riots in Egypt in mid-August left behind more than 800 dead, and at least 4,000 were injured, as Egyptian police and soldiers clashed with demonstrators. Unfortunately, supporters of jailed Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi also vented their wrath at the country’s Christian minority, in what activists described as “the worst coordinated attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community in modern history.”
Even Associated Press, which isn’t considered a pro-Christian news outlet, reported on the extent of the assaults.
“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,” reported AP. “Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday [August 14].”
A more detailed report lists 56 churches attacked in a 24-hour span that started on August 14. Fifteen more were hit over the next two days. Dozens of Coptic institutions like schools, monasteries, bookstores and even an orphanage were also attacked.
The Bible Society in Egypt has been operating for 129 years, and this is the first time it’s been the victim of assaults like those carried out on two of its bookstores. Both were burned to the ground.
On August 18, AFP talked with Dr. Halim Meawad, a deacon for 26 years with St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Coptic church in the Washington, D.C. area.
“St. Mark was the founder of the Coptic Church in 45 A.D.,” Meawad explained. “All of Egypt was Coptic for almost a thousand years until the Muslims invaded and started imposing heavy taxes on the Christians. Those who couldn’t pay were forced to convert to Islam under pain of death. Today’s Muslims in Egypt are descendants of Copts who couldn’t pay their taxes hundreds of years ago.”
The Copts today are only 10% of Egypt’s population of 90 million, said Dr. Meawad, “but they have much economic and social influence in Egypt. They are the largest Christian community in Egypt and also the largest in all the Middle East.”
Asked what brought about the recent riots and the attacks on Copts, he explained:
“Since its founding in 1929 the Muslim Brotherhood has been involved in assassinations, arson and terrorism, with the single goal of making Egypt an Islamist republic. They co-opted the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which was a genuine grassroots movement against [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak’s tyranny. Shortly after Morsi came to power last year he started changing the constitution to give himself and the Muslim Brotherhood unlimited power. Millions of Egyptians including moderate Muslims, secularists, liberals and Christians protested against his government last November, but he continued with his goal of turning Egypt into an Islamic republic. On June 30, 33 million Egyptians demonstrated against him in what was probably the biggest demonstration in history, causing his ousting on July 3.”
“The Copts were attacked because as Christians they were a convenient scapegoat for the Brotherhood,” explained Dr. Meawad.
“Since Morsi’s ousting, his supporters set up camps on town squares and refused to leave,” said Meawad. “They were blaming the Copts for Morsi’s downfall and had already started threatening and attacking us. The sheer scale of the recent attacks against us proves that they were orchestrated rather than a byproduct of chaotic unrest.”
President Barack H. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, however, have come down firmly on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood as a democratically elected government, while condemning Egypt’s military for using unnecessary force against “peaceful demonstrators.”
Morsi’s supporters killed at least seven Copts in the church attacks and 70 policemen and soldiers were also killed. They pushed an army vehicle full of soldiers off a 50-foot-high overpass. There were also a dozen dead bodies found when the two camps were taken down by police on Wednesday. Some of them had been tortured to death.
“Neither the Copts nor the military are responsible for Morsi’s ouster,” Dr. Meawad explained. “The Egyptian people simply did not want him. Morsi was elected with only 14 million votes last year, but 33 million Egyptians in the streets on June 30 told him they didn’t want him.”
* Thank you Pete very much for getting our voice heard out there. We definitely need as much spreading the word about the atrocities our fellow Copts are enduring as possible. Sadly, from that date you have reached out to us [August 18, 2013] till today [September 1, 2013] a total of 101 churches have been burned down/attacked — St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church
Pete Papaherakles is a writer and political cartoonist for AFP and is also AFP’s outreach director. Pete is interested in getting AFP writers and editors on the podium at patriotic events. Call him at 202-544-5977 if you know of an event you think AFP should attend.