They Cry in Silence Sep/Oct 2012
All Egyptian Christians should flee from Egypt, and they should never look back.” The stark warning came from a commentator in the aftermath of Mohammed Morsi’s election as Egypt’s new president in June. Morsi was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist faction now taking control of the country.
Christians fear a bloodbath if the Brotherhood eventually suppresses the army, enshrines Sharia law, and installs a Muslim caliphate-type government. Though they pray this will not be the final outcome of the Arab Spring revolution, the various Christian sects that comprise approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population are not optimistic.
Radical Islamist groups frequently attack Christians, giving ample reason for concern. Compass Direct News reported that a Coptic Christian teenager, Gamal Abdou Massoud, has been sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam. The court claimed the 17-year-old posted cartoons on his Facebook page that mocked Islam and its prophet, Muhammad:
After the incident came to light, Muslims in Assuit, where Massoud lives, rioted. They fire-bombed his home and burned down at least five other Christian-owned homes in several Assuit villages. Massoud’s family left their village….The court also held Massoud responsible for inciting the riots. No one responsible for burning down any of the homes has been charged….The three-year sentence was the maximum Massoud could have received.
Ironically, Watani, a weekly newspaper in Cairo, claimed the charges were trumped up by anti-Christian radicals and reported it could find no evidence Massoud even had a Facebook page, calling him “almost computer illiterate.”
Such court rulings provide what some regard as a window into the future. Certain elements within Egypt will view the Islamists’ ascent to power as a license to attack churches and individual Christians, as they did in May 2011 when 12 people were killed and an estimated 200 injured when members of the hard-line Salafi Muslim movement assaulted two Cairo churches, burning one in a fire that virtually gutted the five-story structure. The crowd then surrounded many Christian-owned homes and businesses. The attack was one of many by Salafi militants on Coptic Christians. The Cairo incident marked the second time in two months a church was burned.
Will Egypt become yet another Middle Eastern country where Muslims dedicated to forcing everyone into Islam drive Christians from their homes, producing a massive Christian exodus? The question remains open. But that is the fear.
As for the victims, their unfortunate options are (1) to remain and live day to day looking over their shoulders or (2) to pack up and leave the region where their ancestors have lived for hundreds—in many cases, thousands—of years, in search of safe havens for themselves and their families.
One would like to think the era of unspeakable atrocities has ended and that mankind has entered into a more civil state where life, limb, and divergent choices are respected—or at least tolerated. However, history does repeat itself, and we are witnessing the tragic reruns in too many places.
Etchings of believers huddled on the floors of ancient arenas have come down to us for a reason. Yet fallen humanity learns nothing from the past. The instruments for dealing death have changed, but the hate-driven frenzy to eliminate Christians has spanned the centuries; and today’s lions still gather to take their turn.