Friday, October 18, 2013

Hatred, persecution. . . and love

Why are Coptic Christians in Egypt undergoing their worst persecution since the 14th century, with horrific levels of violence, to the almost complete unconcern of the West?

Pre-planned destruction of scores of ancient churches, monasteries, schools, orphanages and businesses are said to have gone unreported for days across the West. Yet it has been the worst persecution for 700 years of the largest remaining Christian minority in the Middle East.

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute Religious Freedom Centre in Washington, told a meeting in London organised by Lapido Media and the Henry Jackson Society that US newspapers, asking what difference Islamists winning elections in Egypt in 2011 would make, suggested merely that women would be prohibited from wearing skimpy clothing and Sharm el Sheikh would be closed as a tourist resort. This was "utterly trivial."

The media had failed to ask the most basic questions. Why were the Copts singled out? There was enough evidence to show that the violence was part of a plan to drive out the Copts, to terrorise them into leaving.

Historian Tom Holland said in terms of the sheer scale of hatreds and sectarian rivalries, we were watching something on the scale of horror of the European Thirty Years War.

Dr Jenny Taylor said the media's job had been impeded by "secular blinders." They tended to report the Middle East's religions as a "variant of a Westminster debate" with "left-wing underdogs and right-wing overdogs and Christians getting lumped in with the overdogs, if they get mentioned at all."

The Coptic Church in UK’s Bishop Angaelos said Muslims had often protected Christians. The church and civil society together were against the extremists.  Many Muslims had turned against the Muslim Brotherhood when it became clear there was no economic plan. He agreed there had been what felt like silence from Western churches, governments and indeed Western Muslims after the attacks.

Meanwhile 11,000 young people from 250 churches of all denominations were attending a three-day conference in a church conference facility in the desert 70 miles north of Cairo, despite a curfew and the fact that Egypt's railway system was suspended. Many watched the conference sessions live on two Christian TV channels, and thousands more on the internet.

The main prayer for the conference, titled One Way 2013, was that God would set apart these young people as a sacred generation for Himself, ready to do His work on earth.

A Muslim journalist, who visited the conference with Muslim friends out of curiosity, wrote: "We were overwhelmed by the spirit of love that spread out all over the place, from people who have just been facing a severe wave of attacks, burning, looting - people who had been severely suffering by fanatic Muslims. I was surrounded by a massive crowd of people who were taught to love and forgive. Their genuine spirit of love and angelic worship did not leave my thought!"

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