Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

76535Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

“The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’

“‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.

“How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked. “If it were my father, I could never say this. But this is their faith and religious conviction.”

Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

So also did millions of Copts, recently rediscovering their ancient heritage, according to Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt which subtitled and recirculated the satellite TV clip.

“In the history and culture of the Copts, there is much taught about martyrdom,” he told CT. “But until Libya, it was only in the textbooks—though deeply ingrained.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

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‘I spent the night at my Muslim friends”: Christians flee Islamic State in Sinai

1488171939180Ismailia, Egypt: Some fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing, terrified that the militants of Islamic State would come for them next.

For a fourth day on Sunday, Coptic Christians – one of Egypt’s most vulnerable minorities – sought safe haven after a series of sectarian killings in and near the town of Arish, in Egypt’s rugged Sinai Peninsula.

Some 95 families have arrived in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, 120 kilometres east of Cairo, church officials said. Frightened, hungry and tired, they are being sheltered in private homes and – belatedly – at government accommodation.

“There were many killings and threats of further violence,” said Kirollos Ibrahim, a priest at the Coptic Church of Ismailia, which has aided the displaced. “God has helped us, and we are finding brothers and sisters to stand by us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 

Egypt’s Christians Say They Are at a ‘Breaking Point’

xxcopts2-master768MINYA, Egypt — The Egyptian government has appointed Imam Mahmoud Gomaa, a Muslim cleric, to keep the peace between Christians and Muslims in this corner of upper Egypt. “Everything is good,” he insisted in an interview, citing Christian participation in his official peace-building initiative.

But just a few hours later, the local bishop, Makarios, offered a very different view. “I have nothing to do with Mahmoud Gomaa,” he said.

Once again, Egyptian Christians are feeling under siege, at least in Minya, a city on the banks of the Nile where about 40 percent of the population is Christian. And once again, Christian leaders are divided over how to respond.

At the highest levels of the Coptic Orthodox Church, there is an effort to not make waves and to work with the central government to present an image of unity and calm. After a series of attacks on Copts this summer, the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, pleaded with his followers in the United States not to go ahead with planned demonstrations outside the White House intended to bring international attention to the violence.

“Please, for Christ’s sake, avoid this behavior,” he said.

But in Minya, where violence against Christians often flares, local Coptic leaders are reluctant to go along.

“We are at a breaking point,” Bishop Makarios said. “People can’t put up with any more of this.”

Egypt’s Christian community, an estimated 10 percent of the population, has long had a symbiotic relationship with the state. The government provided security in an increasingly hostile environment, and the Christian leadership helped present a face of tolerance and religious freedom to the West.

 

That compact frayed badly in the waning years of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency and seemed to come undone altogether after he was toppled from power and an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was elected. Attacks on churches, led by Islamist youths, surged.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

20140301_blp508by Miroslav Volf

Muslims and Christians can work together to depose dictators and assert the power of the people. We’ve seen it happen on the Tahrir Square in Cairo during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, with devout Muslims and Coptic Christians protesting side by side. But can Muslims and Christians work together to build a democratic society in which rights of all are respected, the rights of minority Coptic Christians no less than the rights of majority Muslims? They can, if they have a common set of fundamental values. But do they? They do, if they, both monotheists, have a common God.

Ever since 9/11, the most common question I am asked when I speak about these two religions is whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Muslims don’t push the question. But Christians do, vigorously — in Europe, Asia and Africa no less than in North America. Maybe that’s not surprising. In the manual of the terrorists who flew the planes on a suicidal mission it read: “Remember, this is a battle for the sake of God.” In the name of God and with expectations of glory in this world and rewards in the next, they killed themselves and thousands of innocent civilians. To many Christians it seems obvious that the God who spills the blood of the innocent and rewards suicidal missions with paradisiacal pleasures can’t be the God they worship.

The question, however, isn’t mainly about the terrorists and their God. It’s about Muslims generally. It draws its energy from a deep concern. To ask: “Do we have a common God?” is to worry: “Can we live together without bloodshed?” That’s why whether a given community worships the same god as another community has always been a crucial cultural and political question and not just a theological one.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Egyptian Christians content Morsi is gone

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CAIRO – The evening Egypt’s army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, Christian lawyer Peter Naggar celebrated on Tahrir Square with even greater joy than when autocrat Hosni Mubarak fell from power two years ago.

Naggar remains deeply relieved that a year of Islamist rule ended a fortnight ago and yet, as the initial excitement fades, many members of his ancient Christian minority fear Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood will not give up power so easily.

Neither is the Coptic Christian community under any illusion that the army’s installation of an interim government devoid of Islamists spells the end to its long-standing grievances, such as difficulties in getting state jobs, equality before the law and securing permits to build churches.

Still, Naggar is happy to see the back of the Brotherhood. “This is the real Egyptian revolution,” said Naggar, who had joined mass protests in Cairo on June 30 demanding that Morsi go. “The people stood up against Islamism. This is the end of political Islamism.”

Communal tensions and attacks on Christians and churches rose sharply under Morsi, Egypt’s first freely-elected president. Many Copts, who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 84 million people, left the country where their ancestors settled in the earliest years of Christianity – several centuries before the arrival of Islam.

Islamists are staging a vigil at a Cairo mosque and regular protests to demand Mursi’s reinstatement, and it is dawning on Christians that they could yet return to power when elections are held under a military plan to restore democracy.

Some might even resort to force, they fear. Islamists have killed at least five Copts since Morsi’s overthrow, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a rights group.

“It’s an improvement that Morsi is gone but I am still not entirely relaxed,” said Roman Gouda, visiting with a friend the Egypt’s biggest Cathedral in the Cairo district of Abbasiya.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EYEWITNESS NEWS 

Egypt’s Next Coptic Pope Should Open Churches for Muslim Children: Sawiris

The next Egyptian Coptic Pope should open churches for Muslim children to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding in the predominantly Muslim country, a prominent Egyptian Christian businessman has said.

“We hope that the new pope will open the churches to Muslim children so they can play with the Christian children. While the children of the church have to get out of the church boundaries and reach to their Muslim counterparts so we can develop a unified national fabric,” said property billionaire Samih Sawiris.

His call came as Coptic Christians voted Monday to elect a new leader to succeed Pope Shenuda III, who passed away in March leaving behind a community anxious about its status under an Islamist-led government.

The death of Shenuda, who headed the church for four decades, set in motion the process to elect a new patriarch to lead the community through the post-revolution era in Egypt, which is marked by increased sectarian tension.

“The pope should seek with all the spirituality he owns to reunite Christians between themselves as well as reunite Egyptian Christians and Muslim,” Sawiris said, according to the daily newspaper al-Masr.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL ARABIYA