Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 082 | Wed 17 Nov 2010
IRAQ & EGYPT: AL-QAEDA DECLARES WAR ON CHRISTIANS
BACKGROUND IN EGYPT: In July 2010 Camilia Shehata Zakher disappeared after a quarrel with her husband, a Coptic priest in Minya Governorate. Unaware that she was with relatives in Cairo, he reported her missing and accused Muslims of abducting her for forced conversion, a fate not uncommon for Coptic girls in Egypt.
When Egyptian Security Forces found Camilia in Cairo and returned her to her husband, Muslims protested, claiming that Camilia was now Muslim and was being held by the church against her will. One fundamentalist sheikh claimed to have heard her say the shahada, the declaration of Muslim faith. Digitally edited photos purportedly of Camilia in full Islamic dress started appearing on the web. Islamic militants urged that Christian tourists be kidnapped and killed in retaliation. On 1 September a Mauritanian cleric issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Egyptian Copts. Camilia has come to personify the Muslim fantasy of Coptic girls converting to Islam and of the church as a principle cause of fitna or persecution.
Then on 8 September Camilia appeared on national TV denouncing the rumours of torture, drugs and captivity. 'I am appearing,' she said, 'in order to defend my husband, my child, my church and my religion which is Christianity.'
Fundamentalist sheikhs subsequently claimed the woman on the TV was not Camilia, but her 'double'. Egyptian State Security immediately refuted this and the Chairman of the Committee of Declaration of Islam at Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Saeed Amer, stepped in and denied that Camilia ever came to Al-Azhar or that her case ever came before him. Islamist propagandists subsequently asserted that Camilia was kidnapped by State Security forces while on her way to Al-Azhar to formalise her conversion. The Islamists claim therefore the State actually prevented her conversion to Islam.
The truth is: Camilia is a Christian who never converted to Islam. The Camilia of Islamic fantasy -- the convert to Islam who is suffering persecution at the hand of the church -- is a myth. Nevertheless this totally debunked myth is being used as incitement and as an excuse to kill Christians.
INCITEMENT IN EGYPT; DEADLY CONSEQUENCES IN IRAQ.
On 15 September, as religious tensions soared, the former secretary-general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, raged on Aljazeera international TV, falsely accusing Egypt's Copts of 'stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries' in preparation for war against Muslims. He also perpetuated the lie that the Coptic Church was holding female Coptic converts to Islam captive in desert monasteries (RLPB 079, 27 Oct 2010).
As the rhetoric escalated, riots multiplied, forcing the government to urge media restraint for the sake of national unity. Then on 31 October ten al-Qaeda militants in Iraq laid siege to a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad. Fifty-eight died and more than 70 were wounded in the subsequent massacre. In claiming responsibility, the al-Qaeda-linked 'Islamic State of Iraq' gave Egypt's Coptic Church 48 hours to release from captivity Camilia Shehata and Wafa Constantine, an almost identical case from 2004. Otherwise jihadists would retaliate against Christians everywhere (RLPB 080, 3 Nov 2010). The incitement in Egypt being linked to the massacre in Baghdad and the threat from al-Qaeda shocked Egypt, prompting restraint there and temporarily settling the situation somewhat.
Nothing, however, has settled in Iraq. On 9 November three Christian homes were bombed at night in the suburb of Mansour, western Baghdad. The following morning two Christian homes in al-Dora were hit by mortar fire. Bombs also exploded outside a church in Kampsara and outside about a dozen Christian homes across Baghdad. At least four Christians were killed and dozens were wounded and terrorised. The targeted homes could be seen to be Christians because of funeral notices and visible Christian insignia.
Then on Monday evening 15 November Islamic militants in the northern city of Mosul stormed two adjacent homes of Christian families in the eastern al-Tahrir neighbourhood and killed the two male heads of those households, a Syrian Catholic and an Armenian. Almost simultaneously a bomb exploded outside a Christian home in central Mosul. The next day a Christian man and his daughter aged six were killed by a car bomb in Mosul.
This terror has led to a surge in Christians fleeing Iraq. They will join the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians struggling to survive as refugees in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. They no longer see any reason to risk their lives for a state where, even if they survive, they will be condemned to live as second class citizens (dhimmis).
In Egypt, the lives of Copts are conditionally 'protected' as dhimmis. This means they will not be killed and plundered provided they submit to the injustice, persecution and humiliation inherent in abject subjugation under superior Islam. After years of impunity for attacks on Copts, their security is now extremely tenuous.
On Monday 15 November 22 homes, two commercial shops, a bakery, and livestock, all belonging to Copts, were burnt when Muslims -- reportedly nearly 1000 -- rioted in the Upper Egyptian village of el-Nowahed after hearing a rumour that a Christian boy was in a relationship with a Muslim girl. (According to the rules of Islam, a Christian boy may not approach a Muslim girl but must convert to Islam first.)
Due to years of radicalisation and the re-establishment of dhimmitude, the situation in Egypt is now pre-genocidal. Meanwhile the situation in Iraq is undoubtedly genocidal, partly because Iraq has become a base for foreign-sponsored sectarian Islamic militias. Additionally there is the factor that, as a Western experiment in Islamic democracy (like Lebanon previously), the West doesn't want to see or admit failure in Iraq, especially as that would challenge the West's firmly held belief that democracy -- as distinct from the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- is the solution to noble (rather than sinful) humanity's problems.
The West must end the denial and take some responsibility for securing and rescuing Iraq's Christian remnant. Once US troops withdraw and the 'real' war begins, it will be too late.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:
* level the paths, open the doors and provide safe passage for all Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic terror and genocide for what may be an extended period of exile.
* draw the hearts and minds of all Iraqi Christians to him, that they might put their faith in him alone, for he is their only hope.
'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one the least of these, you did not do it to me.' (From Matthew 25:40,45 ESV.)
* intervene in Egypt, to still the brewing storm; may all Egypt's Christians -- Copts and Arab converts -- look to Christ and put their faith in him alone, for he is their only hope.
* frustrate the plots and programs of the wicked, while pricking the conscience of the alliance states to Christian duty and moral obligation that they might respond with commitment and generosity to the humanitarian catastrophe that is befalling Iraqi Christians.