Our Christmas has come and gone. But for the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Christmas is commemorated on Jan. 6, the day tradition holds the wise men (the Magi) came from the East, bearing gifts for the Christ child.
Western Christians have celebrated Christmas on Dec. 25, the date held early on as the day of Christ’s birth. Eastern Christians celebrate His birth on Jan. 6. An early church council tried to reconcile the two dates. The best they could come up with is a compromise between the two dates – hence, the origin of the 12 Days of Christmas, Dec. 26 to Jan. 6.
But as Coptic Christians in Egypt prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, there is danger in the air.
As Jan. 6, 2014, approaches, so also does Jan. 8, the date when deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is scheduled to go on trial. The Muslim Brotherhood, of whom Morsi is a prominent member, are out for blood. Christians make an easy target.
We should recall that in July, tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest Morsi and his attempts to impose strict Islamic law, Shariah, on the whole country. The millions protesting surely included many Christians. But there were far more Muslims protesting than any other group because of the largely Muslim makeup of the population.
Then for three days in August (14-16), many angry Muslim extremists went on a destructive rampage, targeting Christians as a means to vent their rage for Morsi’s downfall.
Norwegian writer Dr. Arne Fjeldstad is the director of the Media Project, an international consortium of Christian journalists from all over the world. The Media Project’s headquarters is in Washington, D.C. Arne is also my brother-in-law. He lived in Egypt for about five years, beginning in the early 2000s.
Arne writes, “Over the last few months, Christians in Egypt experienced an intense wave of attacks against churches, orphanages, schools and other Christian institutions – in the name of God (Allah). A few weeks ago, I visited Egypt once more and experienced many encounters with Christians. This time considerably more tainted with uncertainty and fear than I could remember from several previous visits (and my own time living in the country).”
Arne quotes a Hudson Institute fellow, Samuel Tadros, a Coptic scholar: “Egypt has not experienced anything similar to the attacks and destruction of churches since 1321.”
Dr. Fjeldstad also notes that more than 100 Christian buildings were destroyed during the August rampage and afterwards.
He adds, “Violence against Christians is not just happening in Egypt. The last few months have shown horrific images from Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, to name a few. A year ago, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: ‘Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.'”
Jesus warned that the day would come when men would kill you (His disciples) and think that in so doing they were offering a service unto God. Surely this is one of those times. Many of the Muslim extremists think Allah is pleased as they shed the blood of the infidel.
A few years ago in Alexandria, Egypt, at the very beginning of 2011, 2,000 Christian worshipers were leaving a church when a suicide bomber killed himself and at least 21 Christians, wounding some 100 more.
The scene was out of a horror movie. As body parts were scattered all over, some Muslim extremists came out of the shadows and jumped on these remains, screaming, “Allahu Akbar!”
Sen. John McCain said recently that that is the Muslim equivalent of Christians saying, “Thank you, Lord.” In reality, it means Allah is the greatest – greater than all gods.
In a normal year, Christians in Egypt will celebrate the evening of Jan. 6 in church services. They likely will alter some of their plans this Christmastime so as not to become easy prey for militant Muslims, scapegoating the Christians for their own political troubles.
Any objective observer of the American media would have to agree that the dominant mainstream media are biased to the left. Usually, this bias is annoying – but their bias seems to lead generally to silence when it comes to the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The media’s sin of omission is part of the reason we don’t know about these things.
The pope spoke on the plight of Christians on Sept. 25, 2013: “When I think or hear it said that many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, does this touch my heart or not?”
Even Prince Charles, often silent on such matters, spoke out about the plight of Christians at this present time.
We should contact our representatives to request that Egypt protect the minority Christians. But most of all, we should remember them in prayer.
The great fourth-century Christian leader Ambrose said, “Not only for every idle word must man give an account, but for every idle silence.” It seems like an appropriate thought as we consider the danger that our Christian brothers and sisters face in Egypt – as they are about to celebrate their Christmas.
Media wishing to interview Jerry Newcombe, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.