Last week, hundreds of Coptic Christians in Egypt stood up to a mob of 20 thousand Muslims. They risked their lives to protect their church, their religious freedom and each other. As Copts continue to suffer and die and their churches and property are destroyed, Christians have begun to notice President Obama's silence.
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - According to Asia News, Coptic Christians are experiencing an escalation of attacks by Islamists, and they are becoming a daily occurrence. Asia News reported two attacks that occurred last week. Furthermore, as Copts continue to suffer and die and their churches and property are destroyed, Christians have begun to notice President Obama's silence.
On May17, over 20 thousand Muslims attacked the church of St. Mary in Alexandria. They set fire to the entrance of the building and shattered the windows. In response to the attack, hundreds of courageous Copts formed a human wall around the perimeter of the church, effectively using their bodies as shields against the huge mob. Some Islamists were armed with guns and knives. They shot at the Copts, causing some serious injuries.
The attack on the church apparently began because of a dispute between two neighbors. According to one report, Basem Ramzy Michael, a Coptic Christian, behaved inappropriately towards the sister of a Muslim man, Alloshy Hamada. Another report stated that Basem leaned over his "balcony to gaze at the flat of Alloshy's sister, who lives on the ground floor."
The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that a 36-year-old Coptic man, a father of three children, died during the attack. His name is Sedky Sherif. While witnesses said his body was covered with bruises and marks from bird shot, it is believed he may have died from a heart attack.
A 19-year-old Coptic man, Mina Milad Saber, was severely injured in the attack and required brain surgery. AINA reported that the police shackled him to his bed after his surgery for fear he might escape, although he was still in a coma. They also reported that "most Christians who were injured during the attack either went privately for treatment or quietly left the hospital, 'as it will end by them being arrested too,' said Weesa Fawzy."
Another incident occurred on May 13 in the village of Menbal, north of the Minya province. This time, a Muslim mob attacked a church named Tadros el-Mashreki. They threw stones at the church, forced their way into it, trashed it, and assaulted one person. The mob then looted Christian shops, set cars on fire, and beat up Copts caught outside. The Coptic minority was also threatened with expulsion from the village.
This incident apparently began when a group of Coptic girls, who were going to church, ignored the advances from a group of young Muslims. According to the report, the Muslims waited for the Coptic girls to come out of church. Then they threw bags filled with urine at the girls. This provoked an argument between the girls' Coptic friends and the Muslims.
As a result of the escalating violence against the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, but prior to these two incidents, on April 18, American Copts gathered in Washington D.C. in front of the White House seeking justice for their fellow Copts. They wanted the United States government to do more to persuade the new Islamist government in Egypt to protect its Christian minority from attacks. One demonstrator shouted, "We need justice! Obama, Obama, where are you?"
Of course, the answer to this question seems to be clear. By all accounts, President Obama and his administration have positioned themselves in the same camp as President Morsi of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Obama denounces violent attacks against the oppressed Christian minority in Egypt and throughout the Muslim world, but he chokes on the word "terrorism" when Muslim's commit acts of terror. Yet, he had no problem this past Monday telling the new leader of Myanmar, Thein Sein, that the predominately Buddhist nation needs to end its violence against its Muslim minority.
It is right that President Obama, and all of us, should be concerned about the ongoing violence in Myanmar and the tragic displacement of its Muslim minority; however, this concern should go both ways, and it apparently does not for President Obama. Take the attacks on the U. S. embassies in Egypt and Libya on September 11, 2012, which are currently under investigation, although the attack in Benghazi, Libya is the main focus.
Right from the start, the Obama administration blamed these attacks on an obscure, 14-minute video clip about the Prophet Muhammad that was made by an American Coptic Christian. Before the attacks even began, the U.S. embassy in Cairo released a statement condemning "misguided individuals [who] . . . abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." About two weeks later, the administration flooded Pakistani television with an ad featuring President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denouncing the video in anticipation of the "Love the Prophet Day" protests.
In the ad, President Obama says, "Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others." Secretary of State Clinton says, "Let me state very clearly, the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."
The President and key members in his administration continued to blame the embassy attacks on the video for weeks. In the process, they caused massive unrest in many Muslim countries resulting in numerous injuries, deaths and wide-scale property damage. What's more, the aftershocks of this lie about the video are still being felt.
For instance, it has undermined efforts to establish goodwill between the Copts living in Egypt and their Muslim neighbors; it has endangered the Copts and other Christians living in Muslim countries; it has damaged the relationship between the United States and some Muslim nations; and it has left the American Copt who made the video in jail on a technicality, a victim of Machiavellian politics.
Last week, hundreds of Egyptian Copts stood up to a mob of 20 thousand Muslims. They risked their lives to protect their church, their religious freedom and each other. Last month, members of the American Coptic community stood up to our government. They called on President Obama, and all they got was silence. He was not there for them.
We wonder where President Obama is, but where are we? The American Coptic community also asked for our prayers and if we would stand with them. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt and Muslim countries around the world need our help. Their blood is crying out to us. Will they get silence from us too? Will we be there for them?
One thing is certain, there will be no peace in the world while arrogant leaders incessantly lie to the people, manipulate them and deny them religious freedom. For this reason, I believe it is imperative for Christians in the United States to be there for the Copts and all persecuted Christians. We need to stand up for religious freedom everywhere, even in our own country.
With these thoughts in mind, let us always pray for those being persecuted for their faith and for religious freedom in our own country. Let us also write to our leaders. If they do not listen, then let us go to Washington D. C. and form a human wall around the perimeter of religious freedom for all the world to see.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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