As fighting raged on between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza, the world waited for the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to arrive in Egypt and announce a cease-fire agreement that had been negotiated with the reported involvement of the Egyptian president. One of the high-value statements any public figure can make is to be seeking “world peace,” and Hillary’s announcement of the cease-fire agreement sounds like a step in the right direction. Everybody wants peace. The president of Egypt is getting credit for helping make that possible.
Despite the willingness of the president of Egypt to participate in negotiating a cease-fire between Palestinians and Israel, this same president has another sort of war in progress inside his own country. In Egypt, the World Evangelical Alliance reports that a vicious form of social pressure against Christians is erupting in criminal activity. Coptic Christians have been culturally assaulted for years as the Egyptian population of Muslims increased and as the Muslim Brotherhood has achieved greater political power. There are no laws forbidding people to practice Christianity, but extreme fundamentalist Muslims have made it clear they would like to rid the population of Christians.
The latest effort is to kidnap Christian girls, force them to convert to Islam and then force them to marry their kidnappers. Egyptian law states that women younger than 18 are forbidden to marry, but girls as young as 14 have been among those kidnapped. The most recent victim was only 14. After her family reported her missing, her father received a phone call stating that he would never see her again. A Sunni Muslim group called the Salafists issued a statement saying that the girl had chosen to convert to Islam and to marry a Muslim man. At least 24 girls are known to have been kidnapped this way.
Christians who take their faith seriously in any culture expect to encounter resistance. In the USA, a country with a strong record of protecting religious liberty of all citizens, Christians nevertheless often face insults and cultural scorn when they speak of their faith or act on their faith. However, even though there are political pressures to suppress the influence of Christian faith in public life, Christian individuals have not felt at risk for their personal safety because of their faith. Egyptian Coptic Christians are seriously at risk. Any person who believes in religious liberty would wonder why the Egyptian government would tolerate a criminal project that kidnapped and forcibly converted young girls away from the faith of their families and then married them without their consent or the consent of their families, especially underage girls. For such criminal activity to continue unhindered is a serious collapse of the rule of law. The world expects something better from the government of Egypt.
Christians around the world pray for the Coptic Christians in Egypt, because the Muslim majority in Egypt despises this tiny minority in the population. Christians around the world suffer with the Copts the way a body suffers when a finger is broken. When one part of the body of Christ suffers, the whole body suffers with it.
However, Christians should also pray that the Muslim government of Egypt will simply enforce the safety and security of all its citizens. The global community of nations is affronted, regardless of any nation’s specific religious makeup, when religious liberty is denied and when threats to the safety and security of citizens are allowed to continue without government intervention. Kidnapping is a crime, no matter what the reason. Any government ought to be aggressive in identifying the perpetrators and in working to prevent future kidnappings. No government should tolerate such criminal acts.
It remains to be seen how valuable the new Egyptian government will be in the attempt to shut down warfare between Israel and the Palestinians. Maybe they deserve some credit for a good deed in that regard. However, it is clear that to date, the new Egyptian government gets a failing grade for protecting its own citizens. Christians need to care about this situation and Christians need to pray for God’s protection and comfort for the Coptic Christians who suffer such cultural persecution with the obvious collusion of the government. It is not as uncommon as it should be for governments to ignore real crimes committed against Christians. US Christians need to be alert as subtle regulatory and legal phrasing redefines the landscape of religious freedom and diminishes the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. When laws redefine words people think they know the meaning of, then the rule of law means something different than citizens used to expect. Christians must remember that even though Jesus taught Christians to be harmless as doves, he also told them to be as wise as serpents. Christians need to act on serpentine wisdom.
Be sure to read the good news that Rimsha Masih is cleared of blasphemy in Pakistan at https://livingontilt.wordpress.com/news-from-the-front-lines/charges-dropped-against-rimsha-masih/
- Get ready for Coptic Christian refugees (iranaware.com)
- Muslim Trafficking Networks Target Coptic Christian Women (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Christianity in Egypt: The New Coptic Pope (alittleviewoftheworld.wordpress.com)