Five Egyptians killed in clashes between Christians, Muslims

130406-khusus-hmed-10a.photoblog600By Ulf Laessing and Omar Fahmy, Reuters

Five Egyptians were killed and eight wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town near Cairo, security sources said on Saturday, in the latest sectarian violence in the most populous Arab state.

Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Islamists repressed under his rule.
Four Christians and one Muslim were killed when members of both communities started shooting at each other in Khusus outside the Egyptian capital, the sources said.

State news agency MENA put the death toll at four.

The violence broke out late on Friday when a group of Christian children were drawing on a wall of a Muslim religious institute, the security sources said. No more details were immediately available.


Anglican Clergyman Speaks Out Against Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain

from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

From the Blog of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer:

Thomas Jefferson once asked:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?”

In the 18th Century, on both sides of the Atlantic, there would likely have been a consensus that the answer was self-evident – civic responsibility was but the outworking of a higher responsibility to God.

Not so today. In a largely secularized West, while we value our democratic heritage which balances the role and responsibilities of politicians and citizens, many fail to appreciate these values are rooted in eternal truths and immutable laws.

Unless there are moral absolutes by which we judge society, society becomes absolute.

Every person is created equal in the image of God and therefore worthy or dignity and respect. The Christian scriptures insist we have clear responsibilities to both God and the state.


On Coptic Christmas, Egyptian Christians voice guarded hope for the Future

copticThe reported failed attack on a church in Rafah on Monday, coinciding with Coptic Christmas, is not the kind of news that Father Mikhail wanted to wake up to. on Monday, coinciding with Coptic Christmas, is not the kind of news that Father Mikhail wanted to wake up to.

“It’s very sad that our church is still under attack and that Coptic families of Rafah are still being threatened by militant extremists,” said Father Mikhail of the Rafah Church. “But we have to be thankful for the good news: the army foiled the attempt.”

This Christmas morning, the Supreme Military Council’s Facebook page announced that army units stationed in Sinai had foiled an attempt to destroy the Rafah Church, which had faced repeated attacks by Islamist extremists within the past two years.

News of the foiled Rafah attack was disturbing for many Copts – even those far from Rafah. On his way to his parents’ house for Christmas lunch, local resident Ayman said he was “really disturbed” by the incident. “It’s a good thing the army is on alert and that it protected the church, but it’s sad that churches are still under threat.”

Attacks on churches have occurred intermitently during the past decade, especially in Alexandria and Upper Egypt. An attack on the Upper Egyptian Nagaa Hamadi Church on Coptic Christmas Eve four years ago left six Copts dead.

However, since ousted president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in early 2011, several churches have been attacked and burned. The most troubling of these were two consecutive attacks on churches in Imbaba, a low-income neighbourhood in Giza with a considerable Coptic presence.

These attacks were aggravated by the 9 October 2011 carnage in which military vehicles ran over and killed Coptic demonstrators protesting repeated attacks on churches and Copts.

“Sad as this attack on the Rafah Church is, and sad as the memories of 9 October and Nagaa Hamadi are, the fact remains that we’re here in our country celebrating Christmas among what I believe is unprecedented sympathy and warmth from Muslim friends and neighbours,” said Ayman.


In troubled Egypt, Copts turn to beloved saint

MAR GIRGIS MONASTERY, Egypt — There was no mention of churches torched or Christians killed, but the prayer neatly written on a tiny piece of paper and placed atop an icon of St. George in the chapel of a desert monastery left no doubt about the growing fear and despair of Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

“Oh Lord, for the sake of all the saints of the church, raise high the banner of the cross and vanquish our enemies, the enemies of the church,” it read. “Make our enemies realize their weakness, foil their actions against us, bring joy to our hearts, increase our profit and make us victorious.”

There were folded slips of paper all over the icon of the Christian knight rearing on his steed and skewering a dragon with his spear. Tucked into its frame, piled on a small table below it, spilling on the floor around it, all pleas to God for health, fertility, wealth, happiness – and protection. Copts stood motionless in prayer before the image. Others broke into hymns praising his valor. Wanting to linger in the saint’s presence, families picnicked on the chapel floor, gossiping and eating sandwiches.

The past week, hundreds of thousands of Copts from across the country flocked to the monastery of Mar Girgis, as St. George is known in Arabic, in one of the biggest and most exuberant events of the year for Egypt’s Christians. The annual pilgrimage at the walled monastery in the deserts of southern Egypt overlooking the Nile is a festival of faith, a time to pay homage to the 3rd Century saint who is one of the most revered figures of Christianity’s oldest Church.


Christians in Aleppo voice fears over Syrian uprising

For Aleppo’s Christians, there is a profound fear of the unknown. The Assad government was tolerant of religious minorities, but the rebellion draws most support from Syria’s majority Sunni Muslim community.

By Patrick J. McDonnell

Los Angeles Times

BEIRUT — As explosions and gunfire sounded in the distance, the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church in Aleppo, Syria, prayed for peace.

“People are terrified,” Chaldean Christian Bishop Antoine Audo said by telephone from Aleppo, after the Mass on Tuesday. “They fear a situation that is becoming more and more violent and uncertain.”

Syria’s most populous city endured another day of shelling, street battles and reported strafing from helicopter gunships. Tens of thousands of people have already fled. Pickups and cars filled with families and their belongings have been streaming out as rebel gunmen battle government forces.

The United Nations reported Tuesday that thousands remain trapped in the sprawling city of more than 2 million, which has become the focal point of the more than 16-month rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The crisis inside the city is becoming ever more dire, say aid workers, who fear a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Bread is in short supply; people are waiting in lines for hours to grab what is available. Gasoline is prohibitively expensive or nonexistent. Cooking oil is hard to find.


U.S. still viewed negatively by Muslims in Many Countries

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) — The rise of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East has failed to improve the image of the United States in the region, a poll has determined.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project said a survey conducted prior to the death of Osama bin Laden found that people in key Arab nations and other predominantly Muslim countries still have a negative view of America.

In Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, views are even more negative than they were a year ago, the poll indicated.

Pew said with the exception of Indonesia, U.S. President Barack Obama remains unpopular in Muslim nations it polled.

People in most of those countries disapprove of the way he has handled calls for political change in the Middle East, Pew said.

The poll found widespread support for democracy in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.