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A Coptic Autumn

22/10/2011

A Coptic Autumn

We’ve had the Arab Spring, and we’ve seen demonstrations of ‘people power’ such as we would have thought impossible just a few years ago. In Egypt Mubarak has been ousted from power. In Libya the murderous dictator Gaddafi has been killed by his own people, – a crime in itself, but a killing that was lauded by the western populist media as entirely justified. Certainly, here in Northern Ireland, we had our own taste of Gaddafi’s poison, as armaments and Semtex supplied by him wrecked havoc among our population during the thirty years of the IRA’s terrorist campaign.

The worrying question for Christians, is ‘what will happen in the governance of these countries, following the overthrow of their previous systems?’. None of these nations have a history of liberal, parliamentary democracy, so what will replace the despotic rule of dictators? Elections have been promised, but will these elections (if they take place at all) only leave the countries in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists? If so, what will that mean for Christians who live in these places?

Of particular concern is Egypt, where already the Muslim Brotherhood are making their presence felt. There the Coptic Church is a very ancient Egyptian church, who make up some 10% of the population, (Copts number around 8.5 million people) and whose ancestors lived in Egypt long before the Muslim religion existed. Already the Copts are experiencing oppression from the new Muslim authorities, despite the support of the Copts in the protests that brought an end to Mubarak’s rule. Churches are being attacked, and in clashes with the police, (within the last few weeks) the Copts are coming off worst.

Since the fall of Mubarak there has been a marked increase in the activities of a group known as the Salafi, a Muslim sect even more fundamentalist than the Brotherhood, and whose beliefs and activities are similar to the Wahhabi sect in Saudi Arabia. Like their Saudi brethren, the Salafis are opposed to anything regarded as unislamic, including Christianity, are opposed to granting equal rights to non-Muslims and regard Christians as a legitimate target. Their aim is to establish a Muslim state, with Sharia law. The outlook for non-Muslims is bleak.

So what will happen in Libya? The west has colluded in the demise of the hated dictator Gaddafi, and the rejoicing continues. But will that mood of jubilation be justified when yet another hard line Muslim state emerges from the wreckage of Tripoli, and western, and Christian interests are threatened again? And will the same western media who are crowing about Gaddafi’s downfall, then be shouting so loudly in defence of beleaguered Christians in oppressive Muslim states?

It’s unlikely.

From → Editorial

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