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The assault on Christians living in Muslim nations has reached boiling new levels as members of Egypt’s Coptic Church continue to be the target of increasingly violent attacks from Muslims. According to Coptic Christians living in Cairo, Muslims looted and burned St. Mina’s Church and the Church of the Virgin Mary and attempted to burn St. Mary and St. Abanob Church. Twelve Christians were reported to have been killed, although official government accounts say that the final tally was six Christians and six Muslims dead.
According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), approximately 3,000 Salafi Muslims participated in the attacks, even as Egyptian troops and police did little or nothing to stop the violence. Salafists are strongly influenced by the ultra-fundamentalist Wahabbi teachings that dominate the mindset of Al Qaeda and like-minded terrorist organizations. In addition to the dozen dead, over 200 Christians were injured in the violence according to AINA.
The Egyptian government downplayed the violence, essentially portraying the incidents as unfortunate misunderstandings between Christians and Muslims and calling on Christians to forgive and reconcile with Muslims. This strategy attempts to divide responsibility for the violence equally among the two religions, while the reality is that the Coptic minority is doing nothing to provoke the Muslim majority — except refusing to abandon its Christianity.
Approximately ten per cent of Egyptians are Christians (the vast majority of those are Copts), while the overwhelming remainder of the population are Sunni Muslims. This is not, therefore, a squabble between two equally powerful and influential groups. This is bullying, plain and simple. If the new regime in Egypt is not actively encouraging persecution of the Christian community, it’s certainly not doing anything to discourage such outrages either. The Coptic Bishop of Giza, Anba Theodosius, took the government to task for abandoning Egypt’s Christians. “These things are planned,” he said. “We have no law or security, we are in a jungle. We are in a state of chaos. One rumor burns the whole area. Everyday we have a catastrophe.”
Under Mubarek, the Salafists kept their more violent and extremist tendencies in check for the most part. If and when they crossed the line, Mubarek’s very effective (and yes, often very brutal) security forces came down on the transgressors hard. There is little to hold the fundamentalists in check any longer, so they continue to push the envelope in order to find out how much they can get away with. The early returns suggest that the government isn’t going to do anything to restrain them anytime soon.
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