For Copts Under Fire in 2011, Christmas May be the Season to be Wary
Christians in Egypt are complaining of the after-effects of the Arab Spring. What exactly is their gripe with Egypt's crusade for change?
Has their protest been lost or drowned out by global protests among the world's protest fever? Continue reading below »
In amongst all the cacophony of revolution, uprising and protest and the vying for change in the Arab world, there is another story that has at times been neglected. The predicament of the Coptic Christians of Egypt has perhaps been overlooked leading up to Christmas for the Eastern Church. It could be that the Coptic protest that stole the headlines of October-November been drowned out by global uprisings that include now Russia and beyond? Or perhaps their Christian appeal has been muted in the din of a louder chorus within Egypt, as the outrage spun from ‘Tahrir Girl’ – a Muslim treated badly.
Their cause has received substantial coverage and attention over the last few months, when their troubles, heretowith simmering away for years, reached boiling point. But is this vulnerable community in Egypt going to be swept aside once again when 2011- the year of Egyptian change- comes to a close?
Now, more than ever before, no one can say their fears are unfounded, as the future looks Muslim with Islamist parties taking the lead in Egypt's first round of elections at least.
It’s not all in their heads
An Egyptian brand of the minority complex and fear of persecution has been validated by the sprees of violence seen against the Copts in recent months, culminating in a bloody clash between protesters and army forces in Cairo that left 27 dead.
Many fear that the power vacuum left after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak is giving Muslim extremists free reign to burn churches and attack Coptic homes in the worst violence this community has been subjected to in decades.
While they had been realistically steeling themselves against the possible eventuality of Muslim governance in recent years, aware of a growing Muslim zeal, they did not expect to be targeted so soon after a successful revolution that united all in people victory.
They took contingency steps to create dialogue between the two faiths, knowing that they as Copts would have to learn to live with the Islamists and reach an accommodation with a political grouping they have long feared.
The Arab Spring, could mark the onset of a Christian dark age for the flailing faithful of the Middle East. In any eventuality, there is still a lot of work to be done post-revolution for Egypt’s Copts.
Recently, the Coptic church declared three days of mourning for those killed in Christian clashes with the Army, and lashed out at authorities for allowing repeated attacks on Christians with impunity.
However recent events - specifically the brutal force used against protestors including a young veiled woman left in a compromising state of undress - may suggest positively (but tragically) that the violence is non-sectarian, not discriminating men from women or different creeds.
Copts aren’t the only ones with grievances against thuggish Egyptian man-handling by the army. But during their festive season, approaching Christmas and the New Year, they may be forgiven for feeling less than secure.