Clearly the Copts’ plight in Egypt is becoming better known, internationally; yet it is still obvious that the world outside still seems to view it as something of a “sectarian” split, where Copts and Muslims are equally “to blame.” While this may sound plausible, it defies Islamic theology (not to mention Christian), as well as history, past and contemporary.
“Fragile Muslim-Christian peace crumbles in Egypt,” by Jack Shenker for the News.Scotsman, September 29:
IN THE shadows of the Moqattam cliffs that tower over Cairo’s eastern fringes, Safwat Nazeem is picking his way through tens of thousands of empty plastic bottles.
Safwat, like his father before him, is one of the Zabaleen, Egypt’s invisible army of refuse collectors who gather the urban waste around them and welcome it into their homes. Their neighbourhood, known as Garbage City, overflows with rubbish all waiting to be sifted and recycled. And after a recent spate of national violence and media intrigue, the Zabaleen have become a community on the defensive.
“Zabaleen” literally means “garbage-people.” They are all Copts. Here’s a YouTube video about their plight.
Like the vast majority of Garbage City’s residents, Safwat is a Coptic Christian — part of an eight million-strong religious minority in Egypt that predates the presence of Islam in the country by over 500 years.
In the past months, the country’s fragile sectarian balance has been rocked by violent clashes, accusations of discrimination on both sides and rumours of “special interests” spreading disruption from abroad.
In late May, four Christians were gunned down in a Cairene jewellery shop. The government dismissed it as a robbery, neglecting to explain why nothing was taken. Pope Shenouda, the ageing patriarch of the Coptic Church, opted to stay quiet and maintained his silence even when a similar attack took place on a Coptic jeweller in Alexandria a few days later.
But he was forced to speak out on 31 May when a serene Coptic outpost, the 1,700-year-old monastery of Abo Fana, was besieged by dozens of Muslims following a land dispute with local farmers. Although the Abo Fana controversy occurred 300 miles south of the Egyptian capital, its impact was felt throughout the country.
Copts have consistently complained that archaic building regulations hamper the repair or expansion of their churches, strangling the ancient faith with bureaucracy. They also claim they are denied access to key positions in government because of their religion.
It may be “bureaucratic in nature, but it is product of sharia law, which makes clear that, churches are not to be repaired, but, as the religion of Christianity in Islamic lands itself, left to crumble into oblivion.
Muslim commentators have argued that most Copts are better off than their Muslim counterparts, and that the Christian faithful are being manipulated by external forces using the guise of “minority rights” to interfere with Egypt’s internal affairs….
In other words, dhimmi Copts, amazed at the sort of religious freedom and equality existing outside the Islamic world, are beginning to desire the same thing.
Safwat shares the fears of many Christians that the changing political landscape in Egypt is threatening his way of life.
Glancing up at a figurine of the Virgin Mary, he sighs: “Islam is the solution is their slogan. But there is no place for Christians in that, no place for anyone else.”