Human rights organizations are reporting that Egyptian army units have been roaming the country, shooting up Christian churches and burning a Coptic monastery. More than a dozen people have died in the violence.
Reports confirm that in one incident, a Christian church was burned as a result of controversy sparked by a romance between a Christian man and a Muslim woman, which is illegal in Egypt.
The dispute involving the Christian man and the Muslim woman led to the Muslim woman’s cousin killing her father, because the cousin said the relationship dishonored the family.
In the wake of the family dispute, a Muslim mob burned the church in Soul, Egypt. Another 140 people were injured in the violence that followed the conflict, according to reports.
International Christian Union President Joseph Hakim said the Muslim mob burned the church after the father’s funeral and after an imam issued a decree to “kill all the Christians.”
“After they buried the body, they came back and started destroying the church. They forced many in the Christian community to flee. The destroyers looted the church, looted the Christian’s homes and now these Christians can’t go back to their homes,” Hakim reported.
“Eyewitnesses say they immediately turned the ground of the church into a place for the Muslims to pray. They started praying on the ground of the church,” he said..
Minister of Defense Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi promised that the church will be rebuilt in the same location.
Hakim disputes the account and says that the government has promised to rebuild the church in another location.
“The government is trying to make a deal where they would move that church somewhere else,” Hakim claimed.
“But the Christians don’t want that to happen because [if] it starts happening, it’s going to happen everywhere,” he said.
The destruction of the Soul church has sparked Christian protests in front of the Egyptian TV building in Cairo.
A number of Coptic priests spoke to a crowd that was demanding equal protection under Egypt’s laws.
While there is a dispute over whether the government will rebuild the Soul church on the same location, a report says that the government has promised to rebuild another church, in Helwan, on its original location.
Hakim said the promise of moving churches will encourage the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Muslim Brotherhood will start going after the Christians a lot sooner than anyone thinks. While the whole world is busy with Libya and whole Arab world, the Muslim Brotherhood and the extreme Muslims [are] going to start really harming the existence of the Christian community in Egypt,” Hakim asserted.
Hakim’s concerns echo the words of other analysts who have said the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining power in Egypt.
This claim was strengthened by a recent appearance of historian and political analyst Niall Ferguson on MSNBC.
He said Barack Obama has failed to make clear any sort of strategy to deal with the issues in Egypt.
Intelligence website Geostrategy Direct says that new Egyptian army chief of staff, Gen. Sami Enan, will have a positive impact on U. S.-Egyptian relations.
The Geostrategy Direct report comes out at the same time a report by the military news site Strategy Page says that Egyptian commandos are on the ground training Libyan rebels.
The reports suggest that Enan will be a bridge to the West, but human rights groups are concerned about his ability to restrain the military and whether he will be able to work with a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Center for Security Policy military analyst J. D. Gordon says that the Enan is actually running the country.
“The military council is 18 people and he’s chief of staff. I think it’s fair to say that he’s calling the shots in Egypt these days,” Gordon said.
Gordon added that not much is known about Enan.
“He was in Washington during the time Mubarak was removed. He’s had a lot of dialogue with his U. S. counterparts through the years and frankly he’s the best chance that Egypt has right now to maintain some semblance of stability after this tumultuous movement toppled Mubarak,” Gordon observed.
“Right now Egypt is kind of an unstable place,” he said.
Gordon agrees with Ferguson’s assessment that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized and the most able to mount a campaign to form a government.
“The Muslim Brotherhood does have an organized political machine and they’re the only ones in Egypt outside of the army that really has any sort of power structure in place to hold some campaigns,” Gordon estimated.
Gordon says that the push for democracy in Egypt was misguided.
“The blind push for democracy was shortsighted by those who were arguing for it. Democracy can be a good thing and it should be, but you need requisite social conditions to have a democracy that will be beneficial,” he explained.
“Look at Gaza. We though that well if the Palestinians only had a chance to elect their leaders they would naturally want peace. Well that was wrong,” he said.
“That was something the Bush administration thought was a good idea in 2006. So they pushed these elections and so, what happened, they elected Hamas which is a terrorist organization,” Gordon continued.
“When Hamas got cut off from international aid because it’s a terrorist organization, it fired rockets into Israel,” he said.
Gordon used the former Weimar Republic in Germany and the rise of the Nazi party to illustrate the point that democracies don’t always serve the interests of the people.
But Gordon said that Enan could be a stabilizing factor to stop persecution in Egypt.
“Christians make [up] about 10 percent of the population and they’ve been an oppressed minority for a long time. The thing about Mubarak is that since he had close relations with the United States, he didn’t tolerate persecution to the extent that it would be noticed in the United States,” Gordon described.
“Mubarak wouldn’t tolerate the attacks and he would have reprisals against people who would do that and he would go [after] them because he didn’t want to jeopardize his $1.5 billion in U. S. aid,” Gordon explained.
“But now that Mubarak is gone, we would hope that the military in Egypt would carry on the same type of stable relationship with the United States and certainly a big part of that is respect for the Coptic Christians,” headded.
“We don’t want to see attacks against them and that is a major concern,” he said.
However Hakim says that Enan and the army could put an end to the persecution, if they wanted to do it.
“The army could put an end to this. All they have to do is have accountability. Make the people accountable. They could do it if they want to,” Hakim stressed.
“But remember, the Arabic regime, it never split from the Islamic regime. The government itself has never split from the Islamic, because they are between a rock and a hard place,” he said.