October 20, 2011
Christian Copts in Egypt Need Help
By Mike McManus
“Clash of Civilizations” was visible October 9 in Cairo when
Coptic Christians marched peacefully to a TV station in the
Maspero neighborhood, and were met by 1,000 Army troops. They
not only fired on the demonstrators, but armored personnel
carriers actually jumped sidewalks and ran over Copts, killing 6
of them. Another 21 were killed by gunfire in the massacre and
300 were wounded.
Copt demonstration was sparked by the burning of a Coptic church
near Aswan in southern Egypt. Muslims were furious that the
church was being repaired, though Christians had permission to
do so, and Copts even agreed to remove a cross and bells.
cannot stomach allowing some neighbors to be Christian.
visited a Copt church in Cairo in 1995 and was shocked by the
400-year-old structure’s disrepair. Copts explained that no
church repairs could be made unless President Mubarek personally
agreed to it. This was not a very subtle oppression of Coptic
Christians, who are a tenth of Egypt’s 81 million people.
Under U.S. pressure, In 2005, Mubarek allowed Governors to give
a tiny concession. Result: the burning of 11 Coptic Christian
churches. Copts are treated as second-class citizens.
“The Mubarek years
were not easy sailing. After him, the situation got much worse,”
says Halim Meawad, a Copt who emigrated to America 42 years ago,
and became a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.
churches had been burned before, the rate increased
dramatically, and 27 Copts were killed in Maspero. There’s a
total breakdown of law and order. In the year 2000, on New
Year’s Day, 21 Copts were slaughtered at the hands of fanatics.
This is the first time that the massive killing was done by the
organize a demonstration Wednesday by hundreds of U.S. Coptic
Christians in front of the White House, who then marched up
Pennsylvania Avenue to meet with their Congressmen.
priests stood in front of the crowd facing the White House with
8 black “caskets” to remember those murdered with guns and
armored personnel carriers that were purchased by American
Egypt has been the
second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid (next to Israel),
more than $70 billion, since the Camp David Accords.
“Our goal is to
gain the support of the American public. We want to bring our
problem to the attention of our Administration and also to our
elected officials,” Meawad told me. “We are hoping for heavy
interference. The October 9 massacre was a new development.
American funded equipment was used against peaceful
The Copts held up
provocative signs: “CHRISTIAN BLOOD IS NOT CHEAP. “
Persecution in Egypt.“
“Your Tax Dollars
Kill Christians in Egypt. How many deaths does it take to
“It has been 1,400
years of Islamic oppression. We still stand defiant.”
Leaders of the
group, standing 10 feet from the fence surrounding the White
House, shouted slogans, which were repeated by hundreds of
Egyptian military kills Coptic Christians!”
“Brink your tank
and run over me.”
Egyptians. We are Coptic. We love Muslims. We will never forget
An hour after the
demonstration began, the Hudson Institute hosted a panel
discussion a few blocks away, “What does the Massacre at Maspero
Mean for Egyptian Christians,” hosted by Nina Shea, Director
of Hudson’s Center for Religious Freedom.
“When the Arab
spring hit Cairo, the expectations were that a new era would
start in Egypt, bringing democracy,” said Samuel Tadros, a John
Hopkins scholar. “We are beginning to realize that Egypt will be
a democracy but that does not mean religious freedom will
improve…The only option remaining is immigration.”
Of 8 million
Eric Trager with
the Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, asserted, “The
rise of the Muslim Brotherhood would be a very bad thing for
Egyptian Christians, the Copts.”
said, “The troops probably did not have orders to kill but to
disperse the crowd. But they were undisciplined, plowing into
demonstrators with armored vehicles. One famous young leader of
that march was shot in the chest. A soldier stuck his head out,
shouting, “I shot a Copt in the chest.” The crowd responded,
“You are a real man.”
The White House
response was anemic, saying the violence between the military
and demonstrators should stop, rather than expressing outrage at
The U.S. should
demand that soldiers be prosecuted for murder. We should reduce
but not eliminate $2 billion of military aid to Egypt, so that
we have leverage to press for more religious freedom as a new
government is formed.