So good to read some sanity from the former Archbishop of Canterbury no less about the hyperbole of so much of the religious right. He’s more than a little uneasy about Western Christians claims of victimhood:
“When you have any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word ‘persecuted’ very chastely,” he said. “I think (Christians in the West) are made to feel uncomfortable at times … Don’t confuse it with the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day. That is different, it’s real. It’s not quite what we’re facing in Western society. (That) level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of — I mean for goodness sake, grow up. You have to earn respect if you want to be taken seriously in society.”
But the corollary to this is taking the actual persecution of Christians in the world seriously. I plead guilty to not paying sufficient attention to the plight of Coptic Christians in today’s Egypt. Over the last week, they have been subjected to horrifying mob attacks by frustrated and angry Islamists. Churches have been burned to the ground, whole communities terrorized, and the violence isn’t over:
Bishop Angaelos, the Cairo-born head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said he was told by colleagues in Egypt that 52 churches were attacked in a 24-hour span that started Wednesday, as well as numerous Christians’ homes and businesses.
Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told CNN he had confirmed attacks on at least 30 churches so far, in addition to the targeting of church-related facilities, including schools and cultural centers.
Those churches reportedly set ablaze Wednesday included St. George Church in Sohag, a city south of Cairo on the Nile River. And the new day brought new attacks. Prince Tadros Church in Fayoum, which is southwest of Cairo, was stormed and burned Thursday night, according to the official Middle East News Agency.
There is also a burning of books – perhaps the most telling sign of theocracy combined with brutal authoritarianism:
A Bible Society of Egypt statement posted online Wednesday reported the “complete burning and destruction” of its bookshops in the cities of Assiut and Minia, in southern Egypt. “Fortunately we were closed today, fearing such an attack, so none of our staff were injured,” wrote Ramez Atallah, the society’s general director. “The attackers demolished the metal doors protecting the bookshops, broke the store windows behind them and set the bookshops on fire.”
This is persecution, which the Coptic Christians have not responded to with similar violence. (Can you imagine Islamists exercizing similar restraint after the burning of countless Korans?) It helps explain why the Muslim Brotherhood squandered so much of its non-sectarian support during the Morsi government’s tenure. And why, when speaking of persecution of Christians, we need to distinguish the real thing from the bullshit.