Sadly, news about the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is nothing new. In parts of Iraq and Syria the situation has gotten so bad that the Obama administration declared ISIS’ actions to be “genocide.”
But a recent story about the persecution of Christians in the region didn’t come out of the Levant, but instead, out of Egypt.
Now if this story sounds familiar, that’s because, sadly, it is. For years we’ve been talking on BreakPoint about the plight of Egypt’s native Christians, known as the Copts.
As I said back in 2013, “Egypt [is] central to the birth of Christianity.” It’s right there in Scripture: it was to Egypt that the Holy Family fled from Herod. And Egypt produced some of Christianity’s greatest minds such as Origen and the great defender of orthodoxy, Athanasius. The father of monasticism, Anthony, was also Egyptian, and for much of the Church’s early history, Alexandria was the mind and soul of the faith.
“Egypt was Christian for six centuries before the coming of Islam,” and the people we call “Copts” are the descendants of those who kept the faith in the face of enormous pressure to abandon it.
Those pressures continue to this day. Even under non-Islamist governments, Copts are, at best, second-class citizens. They’re harassed at every turn. For instance, repairing their churches, never mind building a new one, requires overcoming huge obstacles.
And that’s under relatively “friendly” regimes. When the Muslim Brotherhood took power following the “Arab Spring,” they faced what Nina Shea called “jihad” in which it was “open season” on them and their institutions.
Many thought that the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s government in 2013 might bring some relief. But as the Washington Post reported recently, any respite has proven to be short-lived.
The Post quotes a Coptic Bishop’s assessment that a “‘disturbing wave of radicalism’ has emerged from the uprising and changes in government and as the economy has worsened.”
In Minya, which is 150 miles south of Cairo, where “unemployment and illiteracy are high,” and “government services are limited,” radical Islamists “have filled the void, influencing people with anti-Christian rhetoric.”
The result—a series of attacks on Christians and a failure or unwillingness to punish the perpetrators. Instead, according to Christian activists, “Local officials often pressure Christians into mediating disputes instead of going to court and coerce them into changing their testimony.”
As the local Bishop told the Post, “These kinds of reconciliation sessions replace the rule of law.” This, in turn, emboldens other would-be assailants since “the community knows they can get away with attacking Christians.”
It’s gratifying to see the Post’s coverage of this important story. Would that the rest of the mainstream media did the same.
But in the end, we can’t count on this happening. If the story of what’s going on in places like Minya and in the rest of Egypt is going to be told, it’s going to be up to us. As I said three years ago, if the media aren’t “urging our leaders to protect Egyptian Christians . . . we have to. We cannot stand by in silence while yet another ancient Christian community is threatened with extinction.”
We’re all the beneficiaries of the courage and wisdom of Egyptian Christians since the beginning of the faith. It’s long past time to return the kindness.
Please call or email your newly elected representative and senators in Congress. We’ll soon have a new president in the White House. Make sure he knows that the U.S. must speak out and condemn the persecution of Egyptian Christians.
And come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary. We’ll link you to the article in the Washington Post.
And of course, as always, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: November 30, 2016