BLOG 374 December 4, 2017
The first time I went to Egypt, I was almost overwhelmed by how ancient the entire land is as well as Cairo proved to be. Towns like Bir al-Abd in northern Sinai are equally ancient in appearance as well as fact. Therefore, turning on the television for the morning news and discovering that at least 305 Muslims were killed while praying in a local Bir al-Abd mosque left me speechless. How could this happen?
The West remains stunned by the fact that ISIS terrorists kill Sufi Muslims. The differences between Sufis and Sunnis amounts to contrary opinions about visiting the graves of holy figures, praying to Muslim saints, and worshiping at their tombs. The Sunnis consider this heresy – and therefore a call to arms!
What these distinctions amount to might be compared to the differences between Methodist and Baptists over baptism. One group immerses; the other sprinkles. Therefore, the Baptist round up their members with shot guns and go marching on the Methodist worshiping on Sunday morning. Shooting up the church amounts to purifying the believers. Really?
Sound crazy? Certainly, but the people of Bir Al-Abd are paying for having a divergent viewpoint.
The story within the story is that the villagers were warned to stop collaborating with Egyptian Security forces and suspend their worship. A week before the attack they were warned not to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammad with their rituals. Three weeks earlier, the villagers had detained three suspected militants and handed them over to the security forces. These two issues brought the wrath of ISIS down on the worshippers.
Egypt’s shortcomings in providing security and fighting ISIS were exposed by the militants attack. As a result the government is now under fire for not being more effective. Of course, the war with militants in the Sinai is not a new story. I have commented on this problem in earlier blogs.
The Bir Al-Abd attack may reveal a shift in ISIS targets. In Egypt they seem to be hitting soft areas like the Coptic Christians as well as the Sufis. Their point would be to further undermine President Sisi and the central government.
Coptic Christians remain one of the oldest, if not the oldest, churches in the world even pre-dating Rome. Traditionally, the start of Christendom was 42 CE when St. Mark started the first church in Alexandria. ISIS has already attacked the Coptic Christians.
A sad story indeed to start December! Unfortunately, there will be more to come.
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