Posts Tagged ‘Coptic Church’

The Last Anchorite

April 27, 2011

From Remigiusz Sowa best Documentary Transmitter Award winner at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival; a truly remarkable story of Father Lazarus El Anthony, university lecturer, Marxist who abandoned his life in Australia and went in search of God and freedom. His pilgrimage eventually brought him to a life of a Christian Coptic monk and live in solitude on the Al-Qalzam Mountain (Egypt) in the pursuit of what the Desert Fathers called apatheia, holy stillness.

Muslims and Christians working together

February 14, 2011

The Quran does not simply preach tolerance of other religions, it also acknowledges that salvation can be achieved in all monotheist religions. Freedom of choice, especially in matters of faith, is a cornerstone of quranic values. — Benazir Bhutto

Tyrants and peddlers of hate always try to divide people, divide and conquer. But when people work together even tyrants can be defeated.

Hosni Mubarak has gone!
Egypt in revolt

In the New Year we saw a Coptic Church In Egypt attacked. Last year we saw a Catholic Church in Iraq attacked. I was with Canon Andrew White a few days after the attack and he spoke of his pain at seeing his friend the priest lying in a pool of blood.

Coptic Christians in Egypt
Dinner with Canon Andrew White

But when people work together there is hope.

Muslims guarded the Coptic Churches in Egypt. When the brothers and sisters took to the streets of Egypt, flooded into Tahrir Square, they worked together, Muslim and Christian embraced on the streets. The Christians guarded the Mosques during Friday prayers. The Christians linked arms and formed a protective circle around the Muslims when they prayed in the street.

When the Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs attacked the peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square Wednesday and Thursday two weeks ago, it was the Muslim Brotherhood who mobilised their supporters on the Friday and secured the square.

In St George’s in Baghdad before Christmas, a Shia cleric was invited by Canon Andrew White to address the congregation. The congregation is not only Christians of all denominations, it includes Muslims too.

Last month Canon Andrew White brought together Shia and Sunni religious leaders and they issued a fatwa condemning violence against Christians.

Copenhagen fatwa

The Koran teaches tolerance and that followers respect other religions. People are given a choice, all are created equal in the eyes of God. Those who try to impose or coerce are unIslamic. The Koran sanctifies those who believe in the one true God but it does not deny other religions as the route to slavation, does not say Islam is the only route. [see Reconciliation]

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

What better message of hope and love can we give on St Valentine’s Day!

Coptic Christians in Egypt

January 18, 2011
St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria

St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. — Martin Luther King Jr

When he [Joseph] arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod the Great, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt I called My Son. — Matthew 2:12-23

A butterfly flaps its wings …

Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed 26-year-old IT graduate tries to set up his fruit and vegetable stall in the small town of Sidi Bouzid, the only way he can earn a living, but is prevented from doing so … four weeks later the despotic president of Tunisia Zine el Abidine Ben Ali like a rat running up a drain pipe fled Tunisia after 23 years in power.

In the New Year a suicide bomber killed 23 people at a Coptic Church in Alexandria … two weeks later Abdu Abdel-Monaim Kama, 50-year-old restaurant owner and father of four from the city of Ismailia, east of the capital, set himself on fire outside the parliament building whilst shouting anti-government slogans ….

Coptic Christians are under siege.

The Coptic Church established in Egypt in 50AD is one of the oldest churches in the Middle East. The first churches and monasteries established themselves along the route Mary and Joseph took when they fled to Egypt as refugees. Coptic Christians still use Coptic in their liturgy. Saint Jerome records that the Christian School of Alexandria was founded by Saint Mark himself.

Today Christians make up 10% of Egypt’s 80 million population and they feel under threat.

Islam, now the dominant religion in Egypt, swept into a Egypt a few years after the death of the Prophet. One of the reasons why Islam was able to sweep out of Arabia and become the dominant religion in the Middle East was because different factions of Christianity were at war with each other and had been at bloody war for the first 500 years of Christendom in the Middle East. [see Jesus Wars]

Egypt, like Tunisia, is a country mired in poverty, corruption, presided over by a repressive and corrupt regime. With the failure of the state, the church and the mosque has become more than a place of worship, has started to replace the state, and as a result there has been increased sectarianism. The leaders of the Coptic Church are doing the Coptic Christians no favours by aligning themselves with the repressive regime.

If the Coptic Church fails to ally itself with the majority of the population against the repressive regime, then when the inevitable happens and the regime falls, the Coptic Church will find itself facing the wrath of that population.

Using a passage from the Koran, if a Muslim converts to Christianity, that convert is hunted down and killed. The Christian converts are often forced to move away from their home. By contrast, if a Christian converts to Islam, it leads to public celebration. Inflexible attitude to divorce within the Coptic Church is leading women to convert to Islam in order to obtain a divorce.

Some of the leading clerics have condemned the killings, saying punishment should not be death.

In Islam, if a Muslim man marries a Christian woman, she may keep her faith, but it is not applicable the other way around.

The flames of intolerance are being fanned by Muslim extremists who wish to see Christianity wiped out in the Middle East.

Ironic when as Benazir Bhutto shows in Reconciliation, democracy and Islam are not contrary or in opposition to each other. The Koran calls for tolerance, pluralism, listening to and heeding all opinion. The Koran calls for tolerance of other religions.

But we should not forget that everyone in Egypt, Copt, Shia and Sunni, is being repressed by the state.

The problem of persecution of Christians is not unique or restricted to Egypt. In Iraq, Christians are being targeted, Christmas was a muted, low key affair following the bombing of a Christian Church a few weeks before Christmas. Many Christians have fled Iraq. In occupied Palestine, the Zionist State of Israel prevented Christians, including priests, celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, encircled by the Apartheid Wall, is an open air prison. Under Roman occupation 2,000 years ago, Bethlehem today is under Israeli occupation.

What is depressing is the silence of the churches in the West, especially in England.

There are though little rays of hope emerging from the darkness.

Beyond Belief, a religious affairs programme on BBC Radio 4 had a discussion on the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt and the programme should be available as an mp3 podcast download. [1630 Monday 17 January 2011]

In Egypt, Muslims offered themselves as human shields to guard Coptic Churches.

In Baghdad, just before Christmas, a Shia cleric spoke at St George’s Church against the violence against Christians.

Last week, Canon Andrew White facilitated a meeting in Denmark of Iraqi religious leaders which resulted in fatwa being issued condemning the sectarian violence and killings.

Christians and Muslims have coexisted in the Middle East for 1,400 years. There is no reason why that coexistence cannot continue.

Also see

Growing fears of Egypt’s Copts in climate of violence

Egypt recalls Vatican ambassador over Pope’s remarks

Egypt’s Muslims support Coptic Christians on religious holiday

The Arab world must face its demons

Man sets himself on fire in Cairo protest

Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia

Tunisia: The fall of President Ben Ali

Copenhagen summit aims for Iraq fatwa on sectarian violence

Muted Christmas in Iraq

Muslims converting to Christianity

Christmas in the Middle East

Tragic plight of Christians in Iraq

The plight of Iraqi Christians

End of Christianity in the Middle East?

Bethlehem Hidden from View

Israel blocks Christians going to Bethlehem at Christmas