“We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years,” Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery in Degla, just south of Minya, told the al-Masry al-Youm daily.
He said supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi destroyed the monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is an archaeological site. “One of the extremists wrote on the monastery’s wall, ‘donate [this] to the martyrs’ mosque,’” Lotfy added.
It’s also a sad fact that the vast majority of Western Christians have only become aware of non-Western Christianities only as they are being destroyed. For example, in the wake of the American occupation of Iraq, and more recently in the much covered events in the areas surrounding Cairo.
How should we respond to these sorts of situations? Will violent intervention by the US help the Copts? Or will it just create more resentment toward Christians in the region? Then again, will Western Christians just sit by and watch the decimation of these communities?
And so given the history of violence between Islam and Christianity in the region is there much hope for a resolution, or is it a zero-sum game? If Christ is the Prince of Peace, then is it too much to ask the people of Egypt and other places to suffer martyrdom? Then again, if we do believe the promises of the New Testament could this be the most rational thing to ask of them? Do they believe that? Do we? Should we?
If you haven’t read William Dalrymple’s terrific, tragedy-filled travelogue among Christians of the Near East, From The Holy Mountain, now would be a good time. You will never be able to think of these people, and this region, the same way again.
I am tired of only praying for the Copts. What can we do to help them? Serious question. Is there any organized assistance? Help for refugees?
UPDATE: Andrew Doran calls it the “Coptic Kristallnacht”:
The military has been slow to respond to civilians’ desperate pleas for help. Even before this week’s violence, the Egyptian government was unable — or, perhaps more accurate, unwilling — to take basic steps to protect Egypt’s Christians or their churches, which are a particular target of the Muslim Brotherhood’s attacks. Still, Copts have no question which is the lesser of two evils.
They also have a strong sense of betrayal by the West and America. Having struck a blow for freedom at considerable personal cost and in the face of significant odds, the millions of Egyptians who took part in the June 30 Revolution are confounded by the Western reaction. “I don’t know why the American media did this. It is terrible,” said Thabet. One liberal American missionary who has lived in Egypt for several decades was irate in an e-mail message. “Christians here are getting hit hard. . . . I am thoroughly [upset] at the hypocrisy of the EU and the U.S. What whores we have running the world. I can only say worse things about western news coverage in general.”
They are angry that the peaceful, nonviolent protests, which set in motion events that led to the removal of Morsi, have been largely condemned in the West, while the Muslim Brotherhood, perpetrators of heinous acts of violence, have been portrayed as victims. “The Muslim Brotherhood is armed,” says Thabet. “We are not armed.” The violence of recent days seems to confirm that the Muslim Brotherhood was bent on violence all along and was not an organization that, as Robert Kagan recently asserted, “renounced violence and terrorism years ago.” In the aftermath of this week’s atrocities, Mr. Kagan ought to be force-fed his words.