Egypt, the leading Arab country in the Middle East, is in turmoil. The removal by the army of Mohammed Morsi, the elected president of Egypt, has caused tumultuous repercussions by Islamist militants who are loyal to him and insist that he be reinstated before any peace negotiations between the political parties can take place.
Apart from the present impasse likely to end in bloodshed once the army moves in to restore order, the Coptic Christian minority representing ten per cent of the population will find itself the prime target of the same Islamist militants who seem determined to harass them and spread terror among their ranks.
The Patriach of Egypt’s beleaguered Coptic Church has cancelled his weekly audiences with worshippers for fear that they would be harmed amidst the chaos and anger of an element of the Moslem Brotherhood’s followers who view the Christians as their enemies for siding with the military.
Pope Tawadros’s decision came after a coalition of Egyptian human rights groups warned that violence towards the Christian minority was spiraling out of control, with the authorities unable or unwilling to provide the necessary protection. At least seven Christians have been killed and scores injured since Mr Morsi was removed from office by the military on July 3.
Coptic Christians have long suffered persecution, but it grew under Morsi’s rule and his removal unleashed a new wave of violence likely to escalate. In the bloodiest attack in Luxor on July 5, four Christian men were killed by a mob armed with metal bars, knives and hammers who went to set fire to more than 100 Christian houses.
Sixteen Egyptian human rights groups issued a statement on Wednesday of last week expressing grave concern about the mounting attack on Christians and their places of worship. They accuse leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Morsi’s government, of encouraging the attacks and condemning what they called: ‘clear incitement to violence and religious hatred.’
Egyptian media reported that on Sunday hundreds of Islamists gathered outside a church in Sohag, north of Luxor, and raised the black flag of al-Qaeda. Across Egypt, Morsi supporters have denounced Pope Tawadros by name, scrawling derogatory slogans on the walls of Christian homes.
It is a shameful state of affairs which should be castigated by every civilised Egyptian who is proud of his roots and of his forefathers, whose achievements in the world of science and medicine stand supreme even to this day. Religious intolerance is not worthy of a great nation that goes back to the days of the Pharoahs and jealously guards its heritage.
Let the so-called Arab Spring prove to the world that Egypt is a nation of Titans, not of scruffy intolerant hooligans whose shocking behaviour will tarnish the nation for decades to come. Let Allah be merciful and guide them in their folly.