Copts Between an Islamic Government and Their Own Church

Copts Between an Islamic Government and Their Own Church

Throughout its history, Egypt has always been the ambition of foreign invaders. In fact, Egypt was invaded several times, by different occupiers and for different periods. However, the worst one of them all, was the Arab occupation of Coptic Egypt, from the 7th century until our present day. Ashraf Ramelah 

Dr. Ashraf Ramelah
  None of the occupiers, except for the Arabs, tried or were able to change the Coptic identity or language; they kept their distinctly different Christian faith, enduring massive hardships and horrors in order to do so. The Arabs on the other hand, have been trying from the start and for over 1400 years,to destroy and erase everything related to the Egyptian civilization. I am certain that inside their hearts, destroying the Pyramids would be considered a great achievement for the ‘sake of Allah’. I am also certain that a lot of readers would consider me suffering from Islam phobia or Arab phobia for saying that. Before judging me, I invite you to research who burnt in 642AD the famous library of Alexandria, once the largest library in the ancient world, and who cut off the nose of the Sphinx (please refer to the Arab historian al Maqrizi) or who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan in Afganistan in 2001. Understanding the reasons behind these actions will help in comprehending the dire situation of the people living under this kind of occupation. For more than 1400 years and until today, the Arab occupiers of Coptic Egypt, are still destroying Coptic Churches and Monasteries, condemning priests unjustly, torturing monks to convert to Islam, killing Copts, destroying their livelihoods and properties, abducting and forced Islamization of their girls; the atrocities list is too long. In the last 50 years, the situation of the Copts has been increasingly getting worse by the day. The Copts are the people who preserved the spirit of Ancient Egypt and who always stood firm defending their faith, may have now fallen prey to a devious plan devised by the present rulers who are heavily financed by outside Arab forces. Some Copts, especially the ones in the Diaspora, are increasingly getting the feeling that the Egyptian government is now using the Church to stand in the way of the Copts from getting their rights. Clearly said, the government is manipulating the influence of the Church on its followers, who followed it blindly for almost 2000 years, to achieve its ends, which is to simply giving the Copts just ’empty promises’!!! This is an alarming situation indeed. Based on my experience as a human rights activist who closely follows events in Egypt, by listening to Copts’ reaction and comments to certain events, but over all by scrutinizing the action and reaction between the Egyptian government, the Church leaders and Copts, this government plan becomes more obvious. Recently with every incident, however serious, the same scenario is repeated; the government pressurizes the Church, which for the sake of ‘social peace’, give instructions to the Copts to relinquish their rights. In order to understand the tremendous influence the Church has on an ordinary Copt, one has to comprehend the close relationship between the Copts and their Church. The Copts have been living under oppression and discriminated against for more than 1400 years; resulting in feeling as inferior citizens in their own country, which drove them into isolation within the walls of the Church. There, they feel they can express themselves without prejudices, they see in the Church and its leaders their own leaders since the State and their fellow Muslims consider them second and third class citizen. Also the Church is very active in taking care of their social needs, and offers financial support for the needy. Besides, the Copts are very religious people, and become very attached to their serving priest and follow their directions blindly. Naturally, like in every society one find Copts who attack the Church publicly, mostly for personal reasons, whether it be to gain great publicity or great income, since attacking the Coptic Church in Egypt is seldom coming from a Copt. and is therefore, an easy way to make money by being engaged by the media. I would like to highlight my personal stance on this matter. I hold a great respect for the church leaders, and obey any religious instructions given by the Church, related to my spiritual life. On the other hand, if the Church initiates a political issue, then I have the right to agree or disagree with its directions and I do not feel obliged to follow them. In political life, a party explains its policy, what it stands for, and recruits members which enable it to realize its objectives. Egypt is not a democratic country, actually the opposite is true, so if the Church is pushed into being a part of the political game, either by issuing statements, giving instructions or politically taking sides, this would be against its long-held principal of non-interference of the Church in civic matters. This meddling, in the long run, is sure to destroy the Church by continuously ceding its rights, pressurizing its followers to follow certain directions which they are against, besides losing the trust and love the Copts have for their mother Church. In addition it will also destroy all Copts’ hopes of ever getting their usurped rights as equal citizens in their motherland. In the light of the above it is easy to see that an ordinary Copt is confused, receiving contradicting signal from different sources. As an example, during the last couple of weeks, we find a new game being played by the Egyptian political leaders, in preparation for Mubarak’s visit to the United States. Although, a new game, but still banking on the support of the Church leaders to gag the Copts and stop them from asking for their rights. It is by no means sporadic incidents where Church leaders interfere, instruct and blackmail their angry congregation in order to prevent them from participating in any event, aiming at informing the civilized world what is happening in our uncivilized country. A couple of weeks ago, a commission of diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Canada and USA to meet with some activists to inquire about the Copts’ grievances!!! As if they never heard of these grievances!!! Only in the span of the last six months of 2008, several incidents took place, such as the attacks on Abu Fana Monastery, attacks by thousands of Muslim thugs on Coptic Churches in various parts of Egypt, demolishing Coptic Church’s social services centers, killing of Copts, abduction of Coptic girls, and various other saddening incidents. In all those incidents no one has heard one word from any Egyptian official, as if all those incidents took place in another country. Maybe some delusional Copts, may have been fooled by this government bamboozle, and believed their “Taquia”( a provision in Islam to lie to promote an aim), but not here at Voice of the Copts, we consider every opportunity as a great occasion to reveal to the entire world, the situation of the Copts in Egypt. It is irrelevant how many people would be demonstrating or from which nationality. Whether it is one person or a thousand, it would make no difference; the question is how many people would get our message? Voice of the Copts has learned that His Holiness Pope Shenoda III will be coming soon to the USA regarding his health, we pray to our Lord to keep him safe for his Church and his People, who greatly need his spiritual guidance. We also hope that the Egyptian government will not try to take advantage of His Holiness’s visit to stop us from carrying out what we are planning to do for our people in Egypt. Furthermore, we hope that His Holiness’s visit which is just for a medical review of his state of health, will not be hijacked by the government to involve the Church in a political issue. To the Egyptian government we say that we are not threatening or blackmailing any one, we are just asking for our rights, you sent your commission to talk to us, we did not request you to come and talk. The Egyptian government and its representatives in the USA are all well acquainted with the Copts’ demands. We do not need more promises, we need action. – Remove the second article from the constitution which states that Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation. – Stop defaming Christianity in school text books and publicly on the Media – Free Father Mataos who was jailed unfairly. – Free Martha the converted woman and her husband – Stop harassing other religious minority As a sign of good will on your part, carry out the above, prior to the arrival of Mubarak, we may then agree to work with you to achieve the stability that has been long missing in Egypt; otherwise we would be in every place explaining to the whole free world what is happening to our Copts in Egypt.

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