An Egyptian human rights activist says the Coptic Christian community in his country is under siege by the Muslim majority since Barack Obama abandoned President Hosni Mubarak, his regime collapsed and the Muslim Brotherhood’s integration into power began.
Reports document attacks by armed gangs on about 60 Coptic Christians during a protest at a national television headquarters and even suggest that the Egyptian army has been part of the aggression.
Christians have been demanding without success that the government prosecute the perpetrators of the attack and the burning of the Mar Mina church in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbabba on May 8.
A dozen people were killed and more than 200 were injured there.
Egyptian human rights activist and journalist Wagih Yacoub was an eyewitness to the violence and describes the assault on Christians as an ambush.
“The army left. They were not there and they did nothing after the attacks. Other criminals came and attacked the Christians. We asked for the rescue and the army came after a few hours,” Yacoub related.
He said the attacks started at about 9 p.m., and the army finally came at about 1:30 a.m.
“No one understands what the army situation is. Their attitude is very negative concerning security and the lives of the Copts,” Yacoub said.
Listen to the interview with Yacoub:
Yacoub said that he was also at the scene of the Imbabba church fire.
“I went that night to the church and it was burning and houses were
burning. Copts saw the army and they were standing there doing nothing,
standing still, doing absolutely nothing – zero,” Yacoub said.
“They saw attackers who were wounded getting away on motor bikes and no one bothered to stop them and arrest them,” he said.
Yacoub is certain of who is calling the shots in the anti-Christian attacks.
“The Salafis are involved, one way or the other. The Salafis are involved in a very direct way, getting money from Saudi Arabia,” Yacoub stated.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is supporting by not condemning and by actually participating in parts of it,” he said.
Yacoub went on to explain that the Salafis are part of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood’s objectives in Egypt are clear.
“The Brotherhood would rather play politics and rule the country, apply the Shariah law and apply Islam. One of the leaders of the Brotherhood has resigned, but is running for president,” Yacoub said.
The potential Muslim Brotherhood candidate is 59-year-old doctor’s union head Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Fotouh sits on the Brotherhood’s Shura Council and says he will run as an independent.
Human rights activist and International Christian Union analyst Ihab Youssef says the reports are not being exaggerated. Youssef says the violence is real and the intentions of the Muslims are becoming clearer.
Youssef cites a March attack in northern Egypt to illustrate his point.
“The Salafis cut the ear off of a Coptic Christian in the province of Assuit. And they wanted to apply Shariah law on him,” Youssef explained.
The victim in that assault was Ayman Anwar Mitri, a resident of the Egyptian town of Qena in Assuit Province. Mitri was attacked for renting an apartment to a pair of Muslim women.
One report says the women were accused of prostitution. However, the Muslim attackers said Mitri was receiving Allah’s justice for having an affair with one of the Muslim women.
Youssef says the Copt’s demonstrations in front of the state-run TV headquarters was an angry response to the government’s inaction in response to the violence and the church burnings.
“They were expecting that the new government after the revolution would seriously address those problems,” Youssef explained.
“The Copts expected the government to bring some of those criminals to justice. They were surprised that the new government and the army didn’t do that, so Christians went out to protest in front of the TV bureau,” he said.
Youssef is clear in his expectations of what the government should do in response to the recent surge in attacks against the Copts.
“When someone kills someone, bring him to justice. The people who demolished the church, bring [them] to justice. The people who are feeding that kind of hatred in the community, bring them to justice,” Youssef advocated.
The recent surge of anti-Christian violence has many Copts trying to leave Egypt, which could signal the end of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
Leaving Egypt is the wrong thing for Copts to do, Youssef said.
“There are two solutions: Some of the Copts protested at the American embassy last week asking for some type of international protection and international involvement from an international body. So that’s one solution,” he explained.
“Some of the Copts that can afford to leave are pretty much looking outside for the opportunity to leave,” Youssef explained further. “We’re trying very hard to encourage them to stay where they are and fight all the way to the end.”
Youssef said there is reason for optimism.
“We were encouraged this week when the French government, the Vatican and the Cardinal of England as well, are talking loudly about the future of the Christian minority in the Middle East,” he said.
Listen to an interview with Ihab Youssef:
“We’re trying to plead to President Obama and to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put some pressure on Egypt on how to respect human rights first,” Youssef said.
“The bottom line is that we do not want the Copts to leave Egypt. As we see more uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East, the minority Christians are the ones who pay a dear price for that,” he added.
The Egyptian activist Yacoub agrees that it would be a mistake for the Copts to leave the country, even though he believes a Muslim Brotherhood takeover means extreme distress for the Christians.
Asked if he is in favor of the Christians staying, he said, “Of course. They should stay and fight it out. It is their right.”
WND previously has reported a surge of Muslim-on-Christian violence across other regions of Africa, including in Nigeria, Kenya and Ivory Coast. The attacks in all three locations developed following political elections that offered Muslim-Christian competition.
Sen. Barack Obama with Raila Odinga
The Kenya situation is an example of what has happened. There, U.S. President Barck Obama campaigned for the Muslim challenger, Raila Odinga, while Obama was a senator.
Appearing with Odinga at campaign stops, Obama gave speeches accusing the sitting Kenyan president of being corrupt and oppressive.
But Odinga lost, despite attracting Muslim votes through a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Muslim Sheikh Abdullah Abdi, the chief of the National Muslim Leaders Forum of Kenya, in which Odinga promised to rewrite the Kenyan constitution to install Shariah as law in “Muslim declared regions,” elevate Islam as “the only true religion” and give Islamic leaders “oversight” over other religions, establish Shariah courts and ban Christian proselytism.
After his loss, Odinga accused the incumbent president of rigging the vote and allegedly incited his supporters to riot. Over the next month, some 1,500 Kenyans were killed and more than 500,000 displaced – with most of the violence led by Muslims, who set churches ablaze and hacked Christians to death with machetes.
Odinga eventually ended up as prime minister in Kenya through a power-sharing arrangement that was enacted in an effort to appease the rioters.