Egyptian Christians find it difficult to move on

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SHAFAQNA – Egypt Christians are still traumatised …. and who could blame them? Who could in all honesty demand that the Christian community forget the attack they suffered by the hands of self-righteous crowd?

Beyond any religious issues, we should recognise that violence can never be the solution … justice however has a way of mending burnt down bridges.

Soad Thabet’s house no longer has a door. Inside, its walls are blackened with soot and a television lies shattered on the floor. The remains of a red nightgown stand out among the ashes.

Thabet, 70, describes being dragged outside by Muslim villagers and stripped naked in the dirt roads of Alkarm, the Egyptian village where she spent her most of her adult life.

Her crime? Her son, a married Christian, was rumored to have had an affair with a married Muslim woman. The woman has since denied the affair took place on national television.

“They burned the house and went in and dragged me out, threw me in front of the house and ripped my clothes. I was just as my mother gave birth to me, screaming and crying,” Thabet told Reuters a week after the attack.

Orthodox Copts like Thabet, who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 90 million population, are the Middle East’s largest Christian community. They have long complained of discrimination in the majority-Muslim country.

Sectarian attacks occur so frequently in Egypt that they rarely attract wide publicity. But Thabet’s ordeal, the public humiliation of an elderly woman, prompted an outcry among Copts and led to the case becoming national news.

“If it were just a burning we could handle it, but what can we do about what happened to the woman? How can you compensate for this insult?” Ishak William, Thabet’s neighbor and relative, told Reuters at his house in Alkarm.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has denounced the Alkarm attack, which underlines that Copts remain vulnerable three years after he took power and pledged to unite the country following years of political turmoil.

Sectarian violence often erupts on the back of rumours about inter-faith romances or suspicions that Christians are building churches without the required official permission. In a country which claims to practice religious freedom, one does wonder …

Why such hatred against Christian communities? What inherent threat do they pose?

Quite simply none!

Over the years and the decades homes have been burned, crops have been razed, churches have been attacked and, occasionally, Copts have been forced to leave their villages, said human rights groups and residents of the southern province of Minya, home to Egypt’s largest Christian community.

So what now?

Do we just pretend it did not happen? Do we brush the matter under rug in the hope that Christians will get over it? Would you get over it if your mother was dragged out and humiliated in public?

Whenever hatred and intolerance are cultivated, it is hatred and intolerance which will be sowed. How can we ever hope to truly manifest religious harmony if we stand incapable of compassion ourselves.

Christians have every right to practice their faith … We owe them the dignity we demand for ourselves! If not we are in fact poor students of Islam.

Before we battle with others over their so-called “sins” maybe …. just maybe we ought to begin to battle ourselves, and rise better for it.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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