St Mousa the Black Coptic Church, Minya, Upper Egypt (Photo credit: Patrick Poole)
PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, AUGUST 14, 2016:
Three years ago today a systematic campaign targeting Egypt’s Christian community by Muslim Brotherhood supporters began, causing the destruction of dozens of churches, monasteries, Christian businesses and homes across Egypt – attacks unprecedented for several centuries.
Even today many of these churches and monasteries that were looted and torched during August 2013 remain in disrepair as attacks on Christians continue in certain areas of Egypt.
Several months after the Muslim Brotherhood carved this path of destruction through the Egyptian Christian community, I had the opportunity to visit some of these sites and meet with Coptic church leaders to discuss the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in these attacks.
The Coptic Christian community in Egypt is significant not only because it is one of the oldest and largest Christian communities in the Middle East, but the Coptic Christians make up more than half of the Christians still remaining in the Middle East.
Escorted by Father Anthony Hanna of St. Mary and St. Mina’s Coptic Church in Concord, California, in April 2014 we traveled deep into Upper Egypt, where many of the attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood occurred.
One of the first indications of how tense the situation remained even months after the attacks were the levels of security we had to pass through to attend the Easter service at St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral.
Our driver was not even allowed close to the cathedral entrance, so we were dropped off about a quarter mile away. As we passed through the gates, we were checked for our passports and the passes to attend the service. This would be the first of seven ID checks we had to go through to enter the cathedral on the holiest holiday for Christians around the world.
There was good reason for concern for security. A year earlier, the cathedral hadbeen attacked during a funeral by Muslim mobs without any intervention by police under the government of then-President Mohamed Morsi, a top Muslim Brotherhood leader.
Several days later we had lunch with Father Hanna, where he introduced us to a young Coptic man, “George,” who had been been kidnapped for eight days in January 2013. The son of a prominent Coptic businessman, he was held until his family paid a $100,000 ransom.
“George” described his captivity at the hands of his Islamist captors. Initially he was beaten, and subjected to anti-Christian taunts throughout his captivity. When his captors had obtained the ransom, but before he was released, “George” was blindfolded and a gun held to his head, where he was told that if he didn’t renounce his Christian faith and accept Islam, he would be killed. Unable to get him to renounce his faith and with their ransom secured, “George” was released.
Sadly, the kidnapping of Christians in Egypt is still a regular occurrence.
Later that evening, Father Hanna, My Unconstrained Analytics colleague Stephen Coughlin, and myself received a personal audience with Pope Tawadros II at his office and residence in the St. Mark’s Cathedral compound. Again, we had to pass through layers of security, including armored vehicles stationed at the cathedral gates.
Steve Coughlin, Fr. Anthony Hanna meeting with Pope Tawadros II (Photo credit: Patrick Poole)
Armored vehicle protecting St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Abbassia, Cairo, Egypt (Photo credit: Patrick Poole)
During our audience, Pope Tawadros detailed the ongoing fallout of the Muslim Brotherhood attacks in August 2013 and his reasons for backing Morsi’s ouster following the massive June 30 protests.
Two of the things he specifically cited were the April 2013 attacks on the cathedral, which he noted was without precedent in Coptic history and which a Morsi aide had blamed Christians for, and the torture of Christian protesters in March 2013 by Muslim Brotherhood cadres at a mosque following protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi.
Pope Tawadros had been praised for speaking out during the Muslim Brotherhood’s August 2013 ‘Reign of Terror’ for discouraging attempts to save the churches and the monasteries. “We could replace the buildings, we couldn’t replace the people,” he told us.
Several days later Father Hanna and I set out for Upper Egypt with arrangements made by Pope Tawadros’ staff. Here is a video of Father Hanna discussing our trip into Upper Egypt with CBN News.
Murder in Minya
Our first stop in Upper Egypt was in Minya, one of the largest cities in Upper Egypt about 140 miles south of Cairo. A majority of Egypt’s Christian community lives in Upper Egypt, and considerable destruction occurred in the Minya region.
We initially met with Bishop Makarios, who had survived an assassination attemptjust months before. Bishop Makarios noted was that Christian homes and businesses in Minya had been marked with an “X” by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the days prior to the attacks, much as ISIS did with Christian homes in Mosul, Iraq two years later.
During their ‘Reign of Terror’ the Muslim Brotherhood had openly encouraged the attacks, such as this justification for retaliation posted on the Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in Helwan…
…In July 2014, Father Hanna and I met with a number of congressional leaders in Washington D.C. describing what we found on our trip and the necessity to changing the U.S. government’s current openness to the Muslim Brotherhood that had waged the August 2013 terror campaign.
Steve Coughlin and I met again with Pope Tawadros last September when we escorted a congressional delegation to Egypt. He told us of the efforts by the Egyptian government to help rebuild the churches – a promise by President Sisi that is being fulfilled.
But issues clearly remain. As previously noted, attacks on the Christian community in Egypt are increasing as the government continues to deal with a widespread terror campaign, while the Parliament takes up several draft laws to end discrimination against Christians in building churches and removing religion from national identification cards.
And as I’ve reported here at PJ Media the Muslim Brotherhood has escalated their terror tactics in Egypt, most recently with a Muslim Brotherhood IED terror cell in Alexandria that had targeted military and police officials.
Three years on from the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘Reign of Terror’ it seems time for Egypt to ensure that all Egyptians enjoy equal protection under the law free from discrimination. And it is overdue for the U.S. government to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as the terrorist group it is and always has been, as witnessed by the events of August 2013.
Read it all (many photos and video)