BLOG 377 January 8, 2018
Wow! We’re in a New Year. Now, that eight days have passed, you’ve probably already forgotten about those resolutions. Whatever – we have a new year of possibilities and problems before us. What shall we say?
The curtain came down on 2017 with riots in the streets of Iran, the longest since 2009. The younger generation and merchants struggling to survive had enough of the regime spending millions on spreading terrorism and building bombs. The latest report indicates ten deaths, and hundreds arrested. Where will this revolt go in 2018? Probably nowhere because several years ago the Revolutionary Guard wiped out the last group of protestors and probably would do so again.
But problems with Iran won’t go away.
The Arab Spring has fairly well turned into winter. In Egypt the economy is no better than it was before all the rioting. Egypt’s currency is now worth less than half what of what it was in 2011. Tourists are staying away. The killings of 395 worshippers in a mosque didn’t help the country.
The Egyptian Christians possibly had an even rougher time. Hundreds of Muslims attacked a Coptic Christian diocese south of Cairo. The church’s contents were destroyed and members assaulted before security arrived. The Coptic of Egypt may possibly be the oldest institutional expression of Christianity. However, Christians constitute only 10% of the Muslim population. On December 30, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire on a Coptic Church in a Cairo suburb. Eight Coptic Christians were killed before the lone assassin was felled. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi tried to prevent yearly attacks, but failed.
Of course, the world is aware of President Trump’s arbitrary decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The world responded that he further damaged peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Trying to get the United Nations behind the move, America received a rebuke from friends and foes. After the embarrassment, Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened the world that the US was “taking names” and would retaliate financially against everyone in sight. All of which made America look like a bully and further denigrated diplomacy.
Trump’s actions have only isolated Israel further and diminished American’s influence to negotiate for peace. Isolationists could care less while folks struggling for a better world can only mourn.
With a total unpredictable White House, who can predict what will happen in 2018. Putin will run for office in an already rigged election – but doesn’t take a prophet to predict that result. The rest is up for grabs.
When I was with Pope Francis last June, we discussed the critical situation in the world. The Pope suggested that everyone should pray for peace. I can’t think of a better word for what’s ahead.
Blog 347 April 24, 2017
A number of readers wanted to know more about last week’s report on the deaths of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Many Westerners have not been acquainted with the ancient Coptic Church than began in 64 CE when St. Mark came to Alexandria and befriended a shoemaker who in time became their first bishop. Where the first church began now stands a great Cathedral with giant chandeliers. Supposedly, the head of Mark is in a vault in the Cathedral.
As reported last week, ISIS attacked the Christians because they are Christians and particularly vulnerable in Egypt with only 10% of the population in a Muslim oriented country where Muslims have a long history of persecuting Christians.
Muslim President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited Pope Tawadros (the name of the head of the Coptic Church) in Cairo on the Thursday after the attack and vowed to apprehend the parties responsible for the killings. A state of emergency was imposed. However, a local Christian resident responded with the accusation that the state of emergency was called not to protect Copts, but to prevent a revolt by them.
For Coptic Christians, this remains an ancient story. Roman Emperors such as Diocletian began persecuting them even in the first century. The remains of many of these martyrs were buried at the Monastery of St. Mina, an hour’s drive from Alexandria. The seven Christians killed in the Sunday massacre were also buried there as a symbol of high honor and sign of respect. Bishop Kyrillos Ava Mina, who leads the monastery, said the seven are now eternally one with the heroic deaths of Christians through the centuries.
Will this killing stop? Coptics say no. ISIS has only become a new part of the destructive equation. The issues with the Egyptian government and police are both ineptitude and indifference. Christian experience from across the entire country ranges from apathetic shrugs to outright discrimination. Few Christians ever serve in the top ranks of the military and academia. Egyptian expert at New York’s Century Foundation, Michael Wahid Hanna notes that the highest-ranking people in the country will never be Christians.
You are probably asking yourself, “How can this be?” May I recommend a movie that I am telling everyone to see. The Promise is a current well-done movie that is emotionally powerful. The story starts at the beginning of World War I. The basic plot is about what the Muslim Turks did to the Christian Armenians. Once you’ve followed the story line, you will have a deeper insight into what today’s Coptic Christians face in Egypt.
Blog 346 April 18, 2017
Before we start, I need to inform you of a change. Cancel the internet radio show! I had too much trouble in getting an acceptable quality of sound – among other things. So, I am shutting down that operation. Moreover, this summer I am beginning a new website that will fascinate you to no end. The time required for these efforts makes the radio broadcast marginal. Stay tuned for future information on the new website.
Since this is Easter weekend, I am taking a break from the ominous events boiling in North Korea and Syria for a closer look at the Christian experience. Sorry to say that being a Christian in the Middle East is dangerous business. If you follow the regular media, you read of the attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt. Making up only 10% of the population, (about 9 million) they are highly vulnerable to attacks by the Muslim majority. I have known some of these Coptis and found them to be fine, sensitive Christians. I have a deep concern for the price they pay for their faith.
Coptis date their origins to St. Mark working in Alexandria during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius around the year 42 CE. (only 9 years after the Resurrection). They are arguably the oldest Christian community in the world.
ISIS has called Middle Eastern Christians their “favorite prey.” In December, twenty Egyptian Copts (mostly women and children) were massacred in their church by ISIS. Many more were wounded. Such horrendous incidents are not only an ongoing struggle of Christians for their faith, but they also offer a measure of insight into how Arab governments respond to persecution and hate crimes – particularly against Christians and similar minorities.
Recently, ISIS produced a “hit list” of Christians it intends to murder. So far seven have been murdered with one beheading. One person was burned alive. A father and son were dumped on the side of the road after the father was shot and the boy burned alive. These acts reflect a Muslim symbol, saying that the victims do not even deserve human burial, but should be left to be eaten by animals. ISIS sees all Christians in this light.
And how is Egyptian President al-Sisi responding? Hardly a blip in the media. Since the Copts aren’t considered by him to be in the mainstream, they get little attention. Because the Copts have no presence in the West, there is no one to take up their cry for protection. Copts are Orthodox Christians and not connected to Roman Catholic and Protestants groups. Strangely enough, the only people who seriously take up their cause are Jews in Israel. Israelis know that if such atrocities go unnoticed, they could well be next. Israelis know that only moderate regimes can keep the region stable. Protecting Christians is protecting Israel and the region.
A necessary if unhappy message for this year’s Easter.