Coptics Under Siege in Egypt

Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011 08:18 AM

By Herbert London

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The remorseless Josef Stalin once noted, “the murder of one is a tragedy; the murder of millions, a statistic.” Alas if recent events are any indication, there is truth in this perverse claim.

Recently there have been random attacks on Christians in Egypt and the Middle East.

On New Year’s Day a bombing took place in Alexandria at a Coptic church that left 23 dead. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which came after threats from an al-Qaida linked group in Iraq and a deadly attack on a Bagdad cathedral on Oct. 31.

At the same time Pope Benedict has called on Egypt and other Muslim nations to protect their Christian minorities, a new round of violence has emerged.

An off-duty police officer in upper Egypt checked train passengers for the green cross tattooed on the wrists of Coptic Christians in Egypt. After identifying those who were Copts, he killed one and injured five others firing his handgun at innocent civilians simply because they were Christians.

According to eyewitnesses, the gunman sought out Christians on board the commuter line and shouted Allahu Akbar (God is great) as he opened fire.

What are we to make of this break with the code of civility? A police officer discharged with the responsibility of protecting all citizens of the state including the Christian minority; takes it upon himself to kill Christians wantonly, simply because they are Christian.

Of course this was an aberrational act note Egyptian authorities, but how random was it? It didn’t trigger a response from the Cairo paper, and it did not generate a stir in the media.

In fact, the only noticeable response came from the Coptic population in which 200 went to the hospital where the wounded were taken and were later dispersed by the local police.

When the Pope’s emissary raised an issue about the safety of Egyptian Christians (numbering about 10 percent of the population), the Hosni Mubarak government reacted by recalling the ambassador to the Vatican and noted “We will not allow any non Egyptian party to intervene in our internal affairs under any pretext.” Presumably that includes the targeting of Christians for slaughter.

The brazen manner in which Christians are targeted throughout the Muslim world from Sudan to Iran and Egypt to Afghanistan should be a source of concern for the United Nations. However, the rights of minorities are only honored in the breach among Muslim states.

When the reverse occurs, when a Muslim minority in a non-Muslim state is mistreated, it becomes an issue for the Muslim bloc nations and is immediately inserted into the Security Council agenda. However, I am sure the recent murder of Christians and the Pope’s appeal will fall on deaf ears.

Clearly, it is time for Christians to assert themselves, by speaking out against the continued abuse in Muslim nations.

Mubarak may have lost control in Egypt, but it is not too late to restore order in other Muslim nations. In some cases, the Copts are pawns to promote civil unrest with political realignment the ultimate goal. But whatever the motives, these murderous conditions should not be permitted to prevail.

Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and author of the book "Decline and Revival in Higher Education," Transaction Publishers.

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