Friday, May 13, 2011

More Cause for Concern

It has been a while since I have posted this blog but that is not because everything has been peaceful and the transition is working out in Egypt. I have been working on other things and truthfully trying to ignore the dire situation there. Every day there has been one incident after another with a few occasional ones that turn ugly and get the world’s attention. As I mentioned in my previous blogs everyone thought that this would be the best thing in the world for them, that with this revolution Christians would get their rights, and democracy will lead to a better future for the Middle East. But as I said from the beginning, it is everything but good.

This is not the first incident in which a church has been burned down, another one was burned down in February and the military took responsibility for it and rebuilt it, good one would think, right? No, this past weekend the new radical Islamists, the Salafists who are moving rapidly throughout the country are trying to create a full Islamic state and get rid of the Christians altogether. They have burned another church down after a failed attempt and scuffle at a different one down the street. They are an increasingly violent and oppressive group and the military council is struggling in trying to control them. Last week they protested outside the church’s headquarters in Alexandria threatening to kill the pope and destroy the Christians in Egypt.  Day by day the situation has deteriorated not just because of incidents like this, but because of events in daily life where Christians cannot even walk around in the streets anymore to buy food, go to work, or even sit in the balcony without being hassled, beaten, or forced to give money as some kind of payment for living in the country.
             What makes this situation worse is the lack of coverage from all news networks here at home with the exception of the two minute breaking news skit that CNN had. These people are dying overseas trying to get the basic rights we have and yet we don’t pay attention to them. It is surprising how the government hasn’t acted yet as Egypt is the largest recipient of aid from the United States and a major ally in the Middle East. Who knows maybe the oil excuse is valid in terms of foreign policy as we pay more attention to Libya then our most important Middle Eastern ally who are on the brink of civil war. Not to mention the hundreds of people that are being killed and wounded and in desperate need for outside help or at least an attempt from a major international country to show support for their cause.
           I will not lie and say that I have questioned God’s reasoning behind all of this. I have asked why the Lord has allowed such bloodshed and terror to occur at his home and to his people. It amazes me how much pain and suffering has occurred and yet people are still strong and even more determined to get the fundamental rights that they deserve, even with these cowards hovering in the streets in an attempt to scare them away. Even though sometimes these thoughts still come to me and in a way I wonder if the Lord does hear us, the answer to my question came to me the other day in an email.

The first church that was burned down was the church of St. George the Trophy-bearer in Giza, as I mentioned earlier that is the one army rebuilt. After it was rebuilt and thank God better than before, four guards (which is significantly greater than at any other churches, as I am witness from my visit there) were assigned to guard the church at night. They sent a report to their superiors asking to be reassigned because they were hearing weird noises like footsteps, specifically horse footsteps running throughout the church. A general was sent to investigate the issue and sent a report back to the council saying how he spent three nights with the guards and every night when the sound would start they would run into the church immediately to see what was happening. They reported that when they would go in, the would find a man with a white horse in old military attire staring at them and then would ride around the church and them in circles all night. Yes, St. George would appear to them and showed them how he was protecting his church, not them.  As you can imagine the officers were moved immediately in order to calm the situation down as word spread. For those of you who don’t know who St. George is, and mind you the guards didn’t know as it isn’t their religion, St. George was a Roman solider who served under Diocletian and was regarded as his best solider. When the emperor declared that all Christians will be killed, George revealed himself to be one and even though Diocletian tried to convert him he stayed strong in the faith and in result he suffered tremendously before being martyred.

The question that goes in and out of my mind constantly is how much longer will this go on? How much more can we take before everything goes completely downhill? As I am just a witness and victim to what is happening there, I can only assume, there isn’t much time left. The next incident and I pray that there won’t be one, will be the last before total civil war breaks out. Preliminary reports indicate that the Military Council has taken heed to this and have made some arrests and are thinking of changing the rules on building churches. However, actions speak louder than words and with every second that passes by tensions are rising and the situation becomes even more unstable. I personally wish I could go there, yes I know it is crazy but I want to see what is going on, I want to feel their pain and try to do whatever I can to help. Even though I have family over there, I see the difference in their pain versus mine, it is incomparable. Mind you I’m sure they are hiding things from me that I cannot even find out about online. So hopefully this will give you another insight to the continuing situation in Egypt and give you another reason to thank God for the blessings we have here at home. I will continue to keep you all posted and as always, “Rabina Mawgud” or “God is with us”.

egypt church fire

AP Photo - Egyptian Christians grieve during a funeral ceremony for the victims, of Saturday night clashes with Muslims in the streets of Imbaba western Cairo, during a  ceremony at Giza church Sunday, May 8, 2011.  Muslim mobs set two Cairo churches on fire overnight during sectarian clashes that left 12 dead and more than 200 injured in deepening religious violence.

AP Photo - Crowds rampage through the streets of Cairo, in renewed sectarian violence, as various groups of Christians and Muslims threw rocks at each other during clashes near the city centre in Cairo, Egypt ,Sunday, May 8, 2011.  The clashes on Sunday came hours after ultraconservative Muslim mobs set fire overnight to a church and a Christian-owned apartment building in a frenzy of violence that killed 12 people and injured more than 200.

AP Photo - Egyptian Copts, one holding a banner with a picture of Jesus Christ and writing in Arabic reading

AP Photo - Egyptians gather next to a building belongs to Christians set on fire during clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Imbaba neighborhood of Cairo Sunday, May 8, 2011. Two churches in western Cairo were set on fire during clashes between Muslims and Christians triggered by rumors of an interfaith romance that left nine dead in some of the worst sectarian tension since the ouster of the president in a popular uprising.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What Does All of the Rioting Mean for Them?

As many of you have seen on television over the last two weeks, there have been major riots in Tahrir Square in Egypt, in an attempt to remove the current President who has held the position for 30 years. As of today the protesters are still defiant and feel victorious after President Mubarak announced that he will not run for reelection and his son will not follow in his footsteps; but the real question is, have they really won and what does it mean for the country?The first thing that needs to be understood is that Mubarak was not going to run anyways in the next election; he is 82 years old and a term for the presidency is six years long aka he doesn't know if he can make it that long. Furthermore, his son even though was the apparent heir to the throne was not as evil as they portrayed him. Because of Gamal Mubarak, there have been vast improvements in technology, renovations, renewed industries and an overall cleaner Egypt especially Cairo. If his son is as evil as his father then let us explore just a few of the things that his father has done for the country.

For the past thirty years, Egypt has seen stability in the region and has maintained relative peace with neighbors such as Israel, Gaza, and Iran. The Brotherhood was stricken down in order to keep radical extremists from penetrating the politics of the country. Frankly, they protected them everyday so that all Egyptians could have a relatively (biased/controlled) but peaceful government. It is true that the government was full of his supporters and that he ran the show, but when you look at it, they did not do a bad job. With the enhancements previously mentioned, tourism has gone up, their economy has been stable, security once again can be mentioned, close ties with the United States, and much more including the allowance of technology. Even though there has been poverty and loss of jobs like the rest of the world, their economy has been relatively stable and the real problem is that they are impatient and wanting to cause trouble.

The real issue with these protests is the fact that what most people don't see, is that Mubarak has kept Coptic Christians relatively safe over the past 30 years. Terror organizations haven't been able to attack on a daily basis churches or other religious sites as seen in Iraq recently; after any incident involving the Christians, security would be increased not only in the region but across the country and especially for H.H. Pope Shenouda III. With this new wave of nationalism and calls for Mubarak to leave, it brings up the question of what is going to happen now to the Christians. Even though in recent years there has been a decrease in security for churches and increased scrutiny about the subject, for the past thirty years Christians have been fairly lucky to have a moderate ruler such as Mubarak who hasn't destroyed the minority in an attempt to create a Muslim state.Yeah it takes a presidential signature to build a church (spanning about a year or two) versus a mayors signature to build a mosque (takes a couple hours) and tolerance has dwindled somewhat, but the government had control and knew everything that was going on. With this wave of nationalism and brief photos of unity and brotherhood between Christians and Muslims, but there is still the underlying danger and hate that has burning up against Christians in Egypt for decades. With the increased call for a new leader and a new government, one can't help but realize that the once pit in his stomach has become a throbbing pain in the hearts of all close to the matter.

In short of what has been written, the situation is as follows: Mubarak is what we prefer because he is the devil we know rather than the devil that we do not know. This is a very tense time for all Christians and all we can do is pray and fast knowing that everything goes according to God's will. The Pope himself said it best during his lecture at the beginning of this ordeal, "I don't know why you all are so scared when God has been taking care of us for all of these years and all of a sudden you doubt that he'll do the right thing for us." With this in mind, we cannot do anything but sit, watch and pray. One thing we can do is call on the US government to not forget the minority in Egypt, as the recent rhetoric from the administration has been that they want a democracy at little cost and in the quickest time. I can only hope and add a prayer that the government won't forget these people and realize that even though change is needed; that what the soon to be previous leader has done needs to be preserved and expanded in order to give the Christians, rights, safety and a voice in their country.

And as the Pope always says, "Rabina Mawgud" or "God is With Us"

The Beginning of it All

This is my first post in which I wrote regarding the situation in Egypt specifically the Copts. Even though we have moved in a new trek recently with the situation, it is always proper to have the first post for a firm foundation.

I am writing this note because I needed to share a few thoughts on yesterday’s heinous act of terrorism against the innocent Christians in Egypt. I was flabbergasted at the Breaking News headline Bomb Hits Egypt Church at New Year’s Mass, 21 Dead. Before finding out about this tragic event, I was preparing to go to my aunt’s house to ring in the New Year and start a new chapter of my life like everyone else in the world did, but I went numb from head to toe as the pictures started loading onto the screen. How could someone be motivated to do such an awful thing on one of the most exciting and hopeful days of the year?

Here is a brief overview of what has happened after the attack, the Muslims say that the Christians are at fault because they forced a woman to convert to Christianity (the previous dilemma that has led to this attack) and this is their retaliation, and the Christians say that it is Al Qaeda and Muslims in general trying to get them to leave the country so that they can live in harmony. What is the element that the Christians have caused to disrupt this harmony? I am not going to get into what I believe is the answer to this question but it is a simple factor that is causing all this trouble; hate. The hate that these people have is beyond what anyone here can relate to. When I visited Egypt this summer I was awakened to the discrimination and disrespect that Christians get in the country. We are oblivious to the freedom we have here as Americans in which we can walk around anywhere we want, whenever we want, and for whatever reason we want. They only go out for necessities. I started out writing an example of something that happened to me there so people could relate to what the conditions are over there, but I have realized that posting it on the web mean that anyone could access it, and I am not in the position to put anyone’s life at risk there because I was too disturbed by what happened and had to get some of the anger and pain out. You might be reading this and saying to yourself, “Wow he is really paranoid about this”, but I want you to ask yourself how a person cannot be paranoid after seeing innocent people dying in such a horrific event.

While this is a test of their faith and ours, there are some points that can be taken away from this. The first point is that those 21 souls that were lost in this attack are now in heaven with the Lord and are in peace. Point two is that we should not pray for them as they have earned eternal salvation and are praying for our souls. We should pray for their families to have comfort or anything near comfort from the brutal death of their loved ones right in front of them as it is being replayed on television even as we speak. Three, is that hate is the cause of all the attacks and terrorism that we see on television and it needs to be stopped. People need to stand up for what they believe in and not let a group of cowards have the power to cause fear and bloodshed around the world.

Now that I have gotten that out I will leave with only a minor note. I believe that this was another test of not only mine but millions of people’s faith. This event, even though it has shaken me to the core reminds me that each day we are all a step closer to heaven. In Matthew Ch. 24 the Lord tells us how we do not know the time or the day when the Son of Man will return and that we should prepare accordingly. Yesterday’s attack was an example of how short life is and how it can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. So I pray for peace and protection for all of the Christians there and ask that all of you send a prayer for them that the Lord may protect them, and give comfort to all the broken hearts.