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January 30, 2012 2:03 pm

U.S. Copts Decry Egyptian Persecution of Christians (VIDEO)

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

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The service of prayer for Christian unity took place at the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mary and St. Mena, in Hope, Rhode Island.

Coptic Christians in Rhode Island told their Christian neighbors about the suffering their friends and relatives have endured in Egypt in the aftermath of the Jan. 25, 2011 uprising  that resulted in the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

They told their story at a service of prayer for Christian unity at the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mary and St. Mena, in Hope, Rhode Island, that took place on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2012.

The Rhode Island State Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of Christian churches in the Ocean State, sponsored the event. Pastors and clergy from a number of different denominations and faith traditions participated in the service at which the story of Coptic suffering and Christian martyrdom took center stage.

At this event, about 300 people heard testimony about the suffering endured by Coptic Christians in Egypt at the hands of Salafists and Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Rev. Fr. Marcos Girgis, who welcomed the audience to his church, provided a brief history of the Church in Egypt, reporting that many of Christianity’s doctrines were first enunciated by church fathers living in Egypt, which was also the birthplace of Christian monasticism.

The church in Egypt has suffered terribly in the centuries since the Arab invasion of Egypt in the 7th century, Rev. Fr. Girgis reported. The pastor himself suffered discrimination in Egypt before immigrating to the United States.

“I was prevented from becoming a college teacher because I was a Christian,” he said.

Judging from Fr. Girgis’ testimony, the problem is no longer merely state-sponsored discrimination justified by sharia law, but open violence encouraged by Islamist ideology.

“Every day we hear about the killing of Christians,” he said.

The audience also saw graphic footage of people killed at the riots in Maspero on Oct. 9, 2011. It was ugly footage that showed bodies crushed and dismembered by the armored personnel carriers driven by the Egyptian military. The audience looked at the screen unflinchingly.

The video, displayed on two large screens, demonstrated the power of technology to tell the Coptic story and Islamist violence. The Internet is filled with footage of the aftermath of the Maspero riots which began when Egyptian military personnel attacked Christians protesting the failure of the Egyptian government to protect their churches from attacks. During the non-violent protest, reporters on state-sponsored television called on Egyptians to defend the military from attacks by the Christians.

Some of the most powerful testimony came from Dr. Douaa Girgis, who described the events in Egypt before, during and after the Jan. 25 uprising. After describing the attack on the church in Alexandria that took place on Dec. 31, 2010, Girgis told the audience, that attacks against Christians are a common thing in Egypt.

“It happens pretty much on a weekly basis,” he said.

Girgis told the audience about young girls who are kidnapped, isolated from their families and forced to convert to Islam. The government, she said, is purposefully not prosecuting the perpetrators of kidnappings.

She told the audience about the discrimination that Christians endure in Egypt. Christian physicians are not allowed to practice certain specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology because Muslim law prohibits Christians from touching Muslim women.

Discrimination and regular attacks against Christians have prompted 100,000 Copts to leave Egypt in the past year, she said. Things are likely to get worse in light of recent parliamentary elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists won approximately 75 percent of the seats. With this victory, Christians could be forced to pay discriminatory taxes, otherwise known as the jizya.

“The Christians of Egypt are now without a voice,” she said. “We call upon every Christian to help us portray the truth on all levels.”

Rev. Donald Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said the council decided to have the service of Christian unity at St. Mary and St. Mena to show solidarity with Christians in Egypt.

“I hope all of us will recommit ourselves to help Christians who are suffering, whether they be in Egypt or any part of the world,” he said.

The event was remarkable because of the presence of the participation of mainline Protestant ministers whose national churches have been relatively silent about the mistreatment of Christians in Muslim-majority countries throughout the world.

For example, the president of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, Rev. Betsy Garland, who also serves as interim pastor at a United Church of Christ congregation in Rhode Island, spoke about the mistreatment of Christian women who wear Western-style dress in Muslim-majority Egypt. She made this observation while soliciting donations to the Rhode Island State Council of Churches and the Egypt Relief Fund of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of North America.  (Fr. Girgis said his church will match the funds collected at the service, which will be sent to Egypt to help pay the medical expenses of those injured at Maspero on Oct. 9 and to the families of those martyred.)

What makes Garland’s statement remarkable is that she is a pastor in a denomination that remained silent about the suffering of Copts in Egypt at its most recent General Synod in 2011. The denomination passed a resolution warning about the dangers of Islamophobia in the U.S. but refrained from passing a resolution about the dangers of Islamism and its impact on Copts in Egypt.

During his sermon, Very Reverend, Peter-Michael Preble, pastor of St. Michael’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Southbridge, Massachusetts told the audience, “Sitting here watching the video reminds me of how easy we have it in the United States.”

“We cannot sit here as human beings and not rise up to our feet and say … ‘The violence must stop,'” he proclaimed. He also warned the audience not to think that this activism will be done by someone else.

“The someone else is us,” he said.

After the event, Fr. Girgis shrugged off concerns about Islamists in the U.S. responding angrily to his decision to host the event at his church. The local police have been very committed to the safety of his church and parishioners.

Ultimately, Fr. Girgis and his parishioners rely on another source for their safety.

“We are under the protection of God,” he said.

Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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  • Zuzana

    Dexter, your theory stems from being a believer in God. I am not. And as such I am asking you what makes you think you have the monopoly over knowing what Islam is and what it isn’t. What Koran is and what it isn’t. There are obly bad ideologies and good ones. Never is any in its entirety thoroughly good, including Christianity – but it all depends, of course, on how literally one wants to follow it. It is unquestionable that islam is ridiculously backwards and retarded and if abrogation is applied (please, tell me who amond all the islamic sects denounces abrogation)it is a vicious cult. Uneducated simpletons might believe that islam is good religion and may love it (since they have been exposed to that ONLY! it’s called indioctrination -and same happens to Christians; it’s the parent’s fault, for the most part, that their children can’t psychologically “leave” the religion. Such muslims may even might be relatively harmless as long as no atheist or Christian challenges their dogma. And there exactly lies the problem. The dilemma that every muslim has to face. By the inscription in Koran THEY ARE SUPERIOR and tolerance is not mandatory. Jyzia is. Get a grip, please.

    • A few responses

      1. I don’t see how any of what I said is contingent on being a believer in God.

      2. I share your concerns about Islamic scriptures and teachings. I think you are correct that over the course of its history, Islam has offered a pretty persistently negative message about non-Muslims, Jews and Christians essentially. I also agree that the theology of Muslim supremacy is a huge problem. I regard Muslim teachings about non-Muslims and women as the great human rights challenge of our time. As my comment above should have conveyed, I lament the failure of others to see this problem with the same urgency as I do.

      3. I do not know of any authoritative tradition within Islam that denies the doctrine of abrogation, which clearly is a problem.

      4. Christianity has had its problems with its teachings about non-Muslims, Jews in particular. Christians have reworked their doctrine, Muslims have the same task before them. I’m not overly optimistic about the prospects of this happening given that Mohammed is regarded as the perfect man and the last Prophet, but religions are a living organisms and can adapt.

      5. Try to dial it back a bit, will ya? I’ve spent the past several years trying to educate people about the role Muslim theology plays in fomenting hostility toward Jews and Christians in the Middle East and your attacking me for not being as angry or suspicious as you are. I’ve been down that road and can’t go there with you.

    • Zuzana you don’t have to have religion to see that any ideology the persecutes anyone for their faith or no faith is tyrannical in essence. There are plenty of sources to educate yourself in regards to what Islam is or isn’t. When someone is giving you an eye witness account of persecution and murder do you have the right to deny their reality? Wake up.

  • The proclamation that “Islam is the root of all evils” is wrong and irresponsible, as is the description of the Koran as Satanic Verses.

    There are, in fact, many hateful passages in the Koran that would qualify as what Phyllis Trible would call “texts of terror” that encourage violence against Christians and Jews. This is a reality.

    The problem is that Western intellectuals have not addressed these texts of terror in the forthright manner with which they have studied their own texts. This too is a reality.

    There are ways to address these issues, which must be addressed, in a responsible manner. You are not providing a model others should follow with your comment.

    Your prayer for protection for the Copts is undermined by your angry polemic.

    So please, lay off.

    • salvage

      Dexter you’re not getting the point of this post and of algemeiner’s policy in general: Muslims are subhuman and evil.

      See when they label Muslims thusly they don’t have to think about stuff like Israel and who lived there before and why they may be a bit upset about their lands and lives being stolen.

      That makes being righteous kind of hard, it’s just easier to throw them in a ghetto, force them into a corner and call them evil when they fight back with whatever pathetic ways they can. Next step open up camps on the West Bank and get the cattle cars rolling towards a Final Solution.

      If you want to read an average Algemeiner post on Muslims take any Nazi propaganda about Jews, cross out JUDEN and put in Muslim and voila! Bandwidth saved.

      • If you want to talk about lives and lands being stolen, you should take a look at the centuries of Arab and Muslim conquest that has taken place in the Middle East. As Franck Salameh has said “Middle Eastern minorities, Christians and Jews, are the native Americans of the Middle East. The dominant Arab-Muslim culture is indeed the colonizing intruder culture here.”

        Israel is not the marauding colonizing intruder you depict as being. It is in fact, inhabited by one of the few minority populations in the Middle East that has been able to achieve safety and freedom for itself against Arab and Muslim oppressors.

        And your suggestion that Israelis are intent on perpetrating a genocide against the Palestinians is a lie intended to foment hostility toward the Jewish state and its defenders. It’s anti-Semitic. The Palestinian population has quadrupled since the 1948 War. That’s no genocide.

        And you probably already know that Israel has been attacked from virtually every bit of territory from which it has withdrawn since the 1990s. It withdrew from cities and towns in the West Bank in the 1990s only to see these cities and towns used as recruiting grounds for suicide bombers during the Second Intifada.

        It withdrew from Gaza in 2005 only to be attacked by Hamas a year later.

        And it withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 only to be attacked by Hezbollah Six years later.

        And when it comes to Nazi Propaganda, it is the Arab and Muslim leaders and intellectuals that have embraced this messaging about Jews and Israel, because as Ruth Wisse has stated, anti-Semitism is one of the most effective political messages of the modern era. It is particularly effective as a unifying agenda. Israeli Jews have not embraced this ideology.

        Please go somewhere else to post your lies. Try the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Go to Electronic Intifada. Or try James Wall’s blog. There are enough places on the Internet for you to lie. Try it on some other street corner. Bye.

      • Salvage you are playing into the hands of political correctness. Where have you seen in the 21st Century Christians & Jews attacking without provocation? Even in Israel they are only defending themselves from being attacked. You have this thing going as though the Jews have no right to statehood. Really? They do. Just because you have bought into the Muslim narrative that they must have Israel (all of it)doesn’t make it so. Muslims control all of the Middle East now but they won’t be satisfied until they have the extinction of Israel. It won’t happen it shouldn’t happen.

  • Armstrong

    Islam is the root of all evils.Koran is satanic verses.May be God protect the christians of egypt and bless his people.