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The Religious Left’s traditional silence or muted tones about Islamist attacks on Christians globally is becoming increasingly difficult. Attacks on Iraq’s diminishing Christian community have prompted left-leaning U.S. and Western church groups to speak. But Iraq was always easier, because the Religious Left could ultimately blame the U.S. The New Year’s Eve attack on the Egyptian Coptic church in Alexandria, killing 21, and wounding 80 or more others, could not be directly faulted on U.S. policy. But the assault was so brutal that some response from otherwise usually tepid church groups was required. Acknowledging Islamist brutality must be discretely handled, because the Religious Left in no way wants to disrupt interfaith dialogue or publicly admit to any intrinsic problems with any form of Islam.
A news release from the Geneva-based World Council of Churches condemned the “vicious attack” in Egypt and recalled another attack on Coptic worshippers last year. It urged Egyptian President Mubarak and others in the region, including “religious leaders,” to “act swiftly and boldly to safeguard the fundamental religious rights of worshippers of all faiths.” The WCC cryptically noted that “many different faith traditions have been targets of violence by extremists,” without explaining who these “extremists” are. It implored a common political and religious front against “negative trends” through “peaceful means,” including “dialogue and partnership between Christians and Muslims in Egypt and throughout the world.”
In a separate letter to the Coptic Pope, the WCC shared its “great sadness and shock” over attacks against “innocent worshippers,” amid “continuous threats and attacks on the churches in Egypt and in other parts in the Middle East.” Again, the perpetrators of these “threats and attacks” were not named or even described. But the WCC promised “solidarity” and hoped for Coptic “courage to withstand these difficulties.”
Somewhat similarly, the chief of the U.S. National Council of Churches regretted the “perpetrators of this outrage are apparently so blinded by hatred that they have lost touch with the tenets of any known faith.” He insisted: “It is simply agonizing to think that many around the world will mistake this horror as the attack of one religious community on another.” And he asserted: “Christians, Jews and Muslims around the world are united by their outrage and condemnation of this soul-less act.” The NCC chief strongly surmised: “This is not a struggle between religions but between those who value the life of every neighbor and those who clearly do not.”
As if to prove its insistence that the anti-Coptic attacks were not by “one religious community on another,” the NCC news release extensively quoted not one but two officials of the Islamic Society of North America who deplored “reprehensible” violence by a “small faction of fanatics.”
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