Last Saturday evening a mob of nearly 4,000 Islamists mounted an attack on a church in the village of Soul 30 km from Cairo. The attack came after a local imam Sheik Ahmed Abu Al-Dahab, following the exposure of a relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman, issued a call to “Kill all the Christians.” The church was destroyed by exploding gas cylinders and a number of homes looted and burned down.
This week in Cairo Christian demonstrators protested against the attack.
They in turn were met with what is described by a senior church leader from Cairo as “a well-organised and deliberate attack” by Islamists. The result? 13 dead and 140 wounded. The army did send in tanks, supposedly to quell the disturbances. They sat around until the evening and then indiscriminately fired shots into the air before moving off.
The new ‘free democratic’ Egypt has form in this regard already. On 22nd February church leader Dawoud Botorous was stabbed 22 times near his home near Assiut, Upper Egypt. His murderer shouted “Allahu akhbar.”
Next, the Egyptian army, the ‘guardian of democracy,’ attacked the St. Bishoy monastery outside of Cairo and the St. Makarios monastery near Alexandria, using APCs, heavy weapons and rifle fire. One monk and 6 workers were wounded, two remain in hospital seriously injured.
During the disturbances at the time of Mubarak’s overthrow the monks had built walls to defend themselves and the Christians who had taken shelter in the monasteries. The army had previously denied the monks protection. The army used APCs to flatten the walls so that they will not be available to defend Christians in future.
In the province of Minya the governor has ordered the destruction of a church-led welfare centre for disabled children. On 28th February more than 10,000 Christians protested about the treatment they were receiving from the governor. The same day he had ten newly-built houses belonging to Christian families bulldozed.
There are reports of the same pattern of anti-Christian violence in newly free Tunisia.
It is naïve in the extreme to expect that sweetness and light will spread throughout the Middle East following the present unrest. What results may well be worse than what went before.
As our politicians discuss no-fly zones and other 21st century versions of grandstanding gunboat diplomacy perhaps we should reflect on the lives squandered in establishing and maintaining ‘democracies’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nations where the people are as badly off as they were before the invasions, and the Christians even worse off.