Archive for the ‘Copts’ category

Egypt: Muslims shoot Christian teacher in the head as attacks on Christians escalate

February 18, 2017

Egypt: Muslims shoot Christian teacher in the head as attacks on Christians escalate, Jihad Watch,

The Economist reported in December that “a massacre of Coptic Christians” in Egypt is underway, and identified “disgruntled Islamists” who are out to revenge Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood. Coptic Christians strongly supported el-Sisi’s ouster of his MB predecessor, Mohammed Morsi.

Former Unit 777 (an Egyptian military counter-terrorism and special operations unit) chief-of-staff Hatem Saber, who is also visiting professor at the Egyptian Military Academy and an expert in international terrorism movements, states that he considers “the Brotherhood the source of all current extremist militant groups” in Egypt.

Most Westerners are familiar with the stealth operations of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood also can and does resort to armed jihad depending on political climate.

Regrettably, the Brookings Institution boosts the Muslim Brotherhood. A Brookings Institution report declared that  the MB “was left with no other option but to protest in a climate characterized by exclusion and McCarthyism” after Egypt’s military coup in 2013 that outlawed it and declared it a terrorist organization. The very nature of the MB from its founding is conquest and supremacicm; there is no way to appease it save to concede to its leadership, which el-Sisi has demonstrated that he is unwilling to do. El-Sisi said:

Vicious terrorism is being waged against the country’s Copts and Muslims. Egypt will emerge stronger and more united from this situation.

The Brookings Institution, which “bills itself as “the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank in the world,” was bought off by the Qatari government in 2013, when it received 14.8 million dollars, casting “a dark cloud” over its “lofty claim to credibility.”

Meanwhile, President Trump affirmed support for Egypt’s fight against terror in a phone call with el-Sisi three days after Trump’s inauguration.

christian-copts

“Coptic Teacher Shot in the Head by Radical Islamists as Attacks on Christians in Egypt Escalate”, by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post, February 17, 2017:

A 50-year-old Coptic Christian teacher was shot in the head by two Islamic militants in Egypt while on his way home from school Thursday, as attacks on Christians continues to rise at an alarming rate in the Muslim-majority country.

The Associated Press reported that the killing of Gamal Tawfiq took place in the coastal city of el-Arish when the teacher was attacked by two militants on a motorbike on his way home from El-Samran School.

Tawfiq’s death was confirmed by a school official, but no further details of the crime have yet been provided.

It’s the second murder of a Christian in less than a week in the same northern Sinai region, after suspected militants gunned down Bahgat Zakher, a local vet, on Sunday. Wale Milad, a merchant and Coptic Christian, was killed in late January after militants stormed his shop.

Copts make up only 10 percent of the nation’s 92 million population, and have often been victims of Islamic militants who have vandalized churches, Christian bookshops, orphanages, and other buildings.

As many as five Copts were murdered over a two-week timespan in January, with persecution watchdog groups criticizing the government for not doing enough to help protect Christians from such attacks.

“My brother had no enemies; he was a very simple man, and peaceful,” said a family member of one of the victims. “He left his wife and children to work in Cairo to support them. His family will now face difficulties as he was the primary bread-winner.

In December, Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral was bombed by Islamic State terror group supporters, killing 25 people, including women and children, in what was one of the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt in years.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-day period of national mourning over the attack, insisting that the country stands against such violence.

“Vicious terrorism is being waged against the country’s Copts and Muslims. Egypt will emerge stronger and more united from this situation,” al-Sisi said at the time.

International Christian Concern, which monitors attacks on Christian communities worldwide, said that the bombing must serve as a “wakeup call to the Egyptian government and the international community that the Christian population in Egypt is in grave danger from religious attacks.”

“Entire Christian communities have been assaulted by mobs of Muslim radicals on four separate occasions in 2016 because there was a rumor that a church was being constructed. Now, we have witnessed one of the worst assaults on Egypt’s Christian community in years. More must be done to protect Christians and their places of worship in Egypt,” said William Stark, ICC’s regional manager….

Polemic on the Demonstrations by Copts in the USA

August 7, 2016

Polemic on the Demonstrations by Copts in the USA, Gates of Vienna, August 6, 2016

copts-sisi

Should the Islamic revolution of the Arab Spring be victorious in Egypt, this state would sink into Islamic chaos like Libya, Iraq and Syria. Christians would be the big losers and would soon flee or be murdered. That is why the Coptic Church must maintain a good relationship with the Egyptian state, which can be so much easier with a president who is so critical of his own religion. It could even happen that a model may arise in Egypt of how Muslims and Christians can better coexist. Even if we of the West do not care to hear it, the Islamic states will never produce a democracy.

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The following article from the German-language Copts Without Borders blog discusses the delicate problem posed by the demonstrations against Egypt organized by Coptic groups in exile. The author’s main point is that they, the Copts who stayed behind, must live as dhimmis under Islamic rule; there is no other choice. Copts in the diaspora are asked to consider the strategic ramifications of their protests, since the current Egyptian president has done more to help the Copts than any other president or dictator in recent times.

JLH, who translated the article, includes this note:

As our runaway government greases the skids for ever more Muslim immigrants to enter the country, and turns a blind eye to the pleas of Christian individuals and institutions being plowed into the ground in the Middle East, I was struck by the continuing outreach of the “dictator” Al-Sisi to the most endangered of his citizens. And by the tightrope the Copts feel they must walk in an attempt to survive in what was and should still be our highly valued ally.

The translated article:

Polemic on the Demonstrations by Copts in the USA

Egyptian citizens, whatever their religious affiliation, “all have the same rights and duties under the constitution.” And the Egyptian Christians have “displayed prudence and a spirit for the homeland” in the way in which they have reacted to sufferings and provocations in past years. They have remained sensibly united against the attacks of those who “want to use religion to sow discord and spread extremist ideas.”

These are the significant thoughts expressed by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during his meeting with Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, as he received him in the presidential palace, together with a delegation of several bishops from the synods of the church.

Al-Sisi emphasized the value of brotherliness between Christians and Muslims in Egypt by his positive evaluation of initiatives undertaken in the context of the Egyptian Family House. This so-named House of the Egyptian Family is an inter-religious organ for making connections that had arisen several years ago as an instrument for prevention and mitigation of sectarian contrasts.

However, the public demonstrations by several groups of the Coptic diaspora still trigger polemics, for instance those in recent days in Washington in front of the White House that protested against acts of violence against Christians in Egypt. Speakers for the Coptic Orthodox patriarchate did not wish to comment officially on these demonstrations. But recently there have been warnings from the patriarchate of their possible manipulation, as well as the warning against mobilizing public campaigns abroad which could be seen as “attempts at intervention” by foreign organizations and groups in Egypt’s domestic affairs.

The Egyptian writer Michael Fahmy spoke out sharply against such demonstrations organized by members of the Coptic Egyptian diaspora. He labeled them “stupid or treasonous” actions instigated by small groups. He also emphasized that only the Egyptian state can protect the Copts from acts of violence; that these groups are capable of protecting neither the militant Coptic-Orthodox diaspora nor the Copts now sitting in the Egyptian parliament.

Comment From Copts Without Borders

It may seem odd that the official Coptic Church is speaking against demonstrations abroad for Christians in Egypt. But the fact remains that only the Egyptian state — which is an Islamic one — can protect the Coptic Church and its faithful after a fashion, even though, after a period of relative calm, Islamic attacks on Copts in Egypt have increased. But the Copts’ overall situation has improved recently.

The Church must protect its members and make these statements officially. This induces a precarious situation. On the one hand, Christians abroad should not be indifferent to this imposed dhimmi status in Islamic countries, as in Egypt. On the other hand, these protests abroad put pressure on the recently moderate Islamic President Al-Sisi, who had the courage to criticize his own religion.

The churches in Islamic countries that are under increasing pressure in Iraq and Syria, where an extensive exodus of Christian life occurred and is still occurring, should be grateful for the involvement of the still-too-few Christians abroad. Because it is not to be taken for granted. In contrast to Iraq and Syria, where Christians have lost everything and the priests there rightly speak out against the Islamic reign of violence in these countries, the military in Egypt has succeeded in halting the “Arab Spring,” which pummeled especially the Christians and Yazidis. Despite the discrimination, the Copts there are relatively secure and protected. If the Arab Spring had swept across Egypt, there would be no more Copts in Egypt, as there are none in Iraq.

Such demonstrations would only be helpful in the event of the complete collapse of Islam in the Turkish-Arabic-North African area. But that is nowhere in sight. On the contrary, we are undergoing a worldwide radicalization of Islam. As a blog, we thank the demonstrators in the USA and elsewhere in the diaspora for their commitment and ask them not to slacken. But we also ask the Copts in the diaspora to have some consideration for the Copts who must live in Egypt. They could make posters repeating President Al-Sisi’s criticism delivered to the religious leaders in Al-Azhar University when he visited there on taking office. That would even be useful.

This dilemma could more easily be resolved if the Coptic groups abroad would exclusively oppose Islamic acts of violence in Egypt, which is also the Egyptian president’s point of attack. Al-Sisi has proceeded strenuously against the Muslim Brotherhood, and that has also provided relief for the Copts. Yet this, or other radical groups still practice violence against Copts. Europe too, is learning painfully how difficult it is to root out nests of Islamic radicals.

Throwing the baby out with the bath would mean losing everything in Egypt, as the Christians suffered and are still suffering in Syria and Iraq. This has unfortunately proven to be true. The Christian exodus from Iraq and Syria is taking place unnoticed where the Copts are demonstrating, in the USA, in Europe and in western churches. If this were not the case, there would have been, for decades now, much stronger support for fellow Christians and against the persecution of Christians. They have shown that their solidarity with their co-religionists is less than half-hearted. Nonetheless, we thank all those people in church and country who have continued to help to raise the awareness of the great tragedy of contemporary Christian persecution. This task has received too little support from the general population and the Church.

Should the Islamic revolution of the Arab Spring be victorious in Egypt, this state would sink into Islamic chaos like Libya, Iraq and Syria. Christians would be the big losers and would soon flee or be murdered. That is why the Coptic Church must maintain a good relationship with the Egyptian state, which can be so much easier with a president who is so critical of his own religion. It could even happen that a model may arise in Egypt of how Muslims and Christians can better coexist. Even if we of the West do not care to hear it, the Islamic states will never produce a democracy.

The path out of servitude for Christians in Islamic lands is stony and difficult and must be accompanied by tactical measures on the part of the affected churches. Some may find fault, but, under the present circumstances, it is the only practical survival strategy under dhimmi subjection.

We must trust in Jesus Christ, who has not yet abandoned the Coptic Church. We beseech Him to protect Christians in Iraq and Syria, strengthen them in number and in faith. Let us not falter in prayer for persecuted Christians and other persecuted minorities.

At the U.N., Obama refuses to see the chaotic world he has made,

September 29, 2015

At the U.N., Obama refuses to see the chaotic world he has made, BreitbartJohn Hayward, September 28, 2015

ISIS-beheading-Christians-Libya-ap-640x480

President Obama’s address to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday morning was a rambling journey through a fantasy world where his foreign policy hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment came when he tried to tout his Libyan adventure as a success.

There was plenty of tough-guy posturing that intimidated absolutely no one.  The Russian and Iranian delegations were especially good at looking bored and unimpressed when he called upon them to do this-or-that because The World supposedly demanded it. Obama hasn’t figured out he’s the only leader at the U.N. eager to sacrifice his nation’s interests to please The World.

Obama made the weird decision to vaguely threaten Russia over its invasion of Ukraine by claiming that The World would not stand idly by and allow it… when that’s exactly what The World, and especially First Citizen of the World Barack Obama, has been doing.  He essentially pleaded with Iran to stop supporting terrorist proxies and pursuing its aggressive regional ambitions, and focus on their economy instead.  (Of course, in Obama’s vigorous imagination, the U.S. has been enjoying an economic boom under his stewardship, instead of an endless grinding non-recovery and limp, sporadic growth, after Obama’s spending doubled the national debt in a single presidency.)

It was bad enough that the President talked about American troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan as the triumphant conclusion of an effective policy, rather than the hideous blunder that allowed ISIS to create a terror state, al-Qaeda to rise from the ashes, and the Taliban to begin planning its return to power.  At the same moment Obama was speaking, the Taliban was conducting a major offensive in Afghanistan, on par with the importance of ISIS taking Mosul in Iraq.  Obama’s pitifully small “New Syrian Force” of U.S.-backed rebels just handed a good deal of its American equipment over to al-Qaeda, and no one really knows what became of the unit itself.  Their predecessors were destroyed by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria, with less than half a dozen survivors still on the field.

When Obama boasted of the Libyan operation as the successful removal of a tyrant, jaws must have hit the floor around the room.  Libya is an unholy disaster, a wasteland of warlords fighting to keep ISIS off their turf.  It’s a key gateway for the incredible migratory tide blasting out of Africa and the Middle East and now surging across Europe.  And yet, Obama portrays it as [a] laudable example of tyrant removal… while modestly admitting that “our coalition could have, and should have, done more to fill a vacuum left behind.”

Of course he blamed everyone else in the “coalition” for the disaster in Libya. He’s Barack Obama.  The day may come when he takes responsibility for something, but today is not that day, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

The scary thing about Obama is that he believes so completely in the power of his own rhetoric.

He thinks he can reshape reality with his words.  When he scolds the Iranians for their “Death to America!” rhetoric by saying bloodthirsty chants don’t create jobs, he’s asking Iran to live up to the silly talking points he foisted off on the American people to cover the Iranian nuclear deal.  He’s commanding Iran to act like the enlightened, responsible nation-state he gambled the future of Israel, America, and much of the Western world on.

The Iranians, on the other hand, see no reason to knock off the “Death to America!” chants, disband their theocracy, and begin spending their days arguing about stimulus bills.  Belligerence has gotten them everything so far.  They’ve been rewarded for it… by Barack Obama.  They’ve got $150 billion in sanctions relief coming their way.  They can afford to send a few guys to sit in the U.N. General Assembly with pissy expressions on their faces while Obama rambles on about how geo-political crime does not pay.  They know for a fact it pays, quite handsomely.  The Iranians are already using their Obama loot to reinforce terror proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, and secure Bashar Assad in power.

Ah, yes, Bashar Assad… the dictator Obama still blathers on about removing from power, even as his own diplomatic apparatus gets used to the idea Assad is not going anywhere.  The only really good part of Obama’s speech was when he spent five seconds glaring at the Syrian ambassador before launching into his denunciation of barrel bombs and chemical weapons.  But you know what?  That Syrian ambassador gets paid enough to take a few seconds of hairy eyeball from the ineffectual American president.  The Russians are smoothly replacing American influence across the Middle East, in partnership with Iran.  The new order is taking shape.  Obama isn’t going to reverse that process by telling aggressive, bare-knuckle conquerors they should be ashamed of themselves.

The other dangerous thing about this delusional President is his belief in the “judgment of history.”

He’s constantly hitting on the idea that all of the world’s villains are on the wrong side of history, and will find themselves buried in the sands of time any day now.  It’s a dodge, a way of Obama evading responsibility.  Bashar Assad is going to remerge from the Wrong Side of History in pretty good shape.  ISIS is very comfortable there, as is Iran.  Qaddafi didn’t assume room temperature because History caught up with him. Vladimir Putin has a lovely view of Crimea from the wrong side of history.  The history of Europe is being reshaped by the tramping of a million “refugee” feet.

In every example, Obama clings to the idea that he can change the world by talking and scoring debate points, while his adversaries seize territory and control the course of events.  It’s not as though Obama has some deep-seated reluctance to use deadly force – there have been a lot of deaths by drone strike since he won that Nobel Peace Prize.  What Obama lacks is commitment.  His foreign policy is all about gestures and distractions.  He cooks up half-baked plans that will blow up a terrorist here and there, so he can’t be accused of doing “nothing,” but he won’t do anything that could cost him political capital at home.  Even Libya was half-hearted and calculated for minimum risk, which is why the place went to an even deeper Hell after Qaddafi was overthrown.

Obama talks as if he’s taken action against numerous crises, but all he ever did was talk about them.  The men of action are stacking up bodies, and raising flags over conquered cities, while this President is writing speeches and trying to win applause from editorial boards.  The men of action know that Obama’s promises all have expiration dates, his vows of action always have escape clauses, and no matter how he loves to boast that he heads up the most powerful military the world has ever seen, he’s done everything he can to make it weaker.

President Obama is still clinging to a romantic vision of the “Arab Spring” as a flourishing of democracy, despite all evidence to the contrary.  He’s giving the same foreign policy speeches he gave in 2009 because he can’t bear to live in the world he made.  He talks about filling vacuums and voids… but those voids are already filled, by hard characters with plans to make the most of the extraordinary opportunity Barack Obama afforded them.

(Video of Obama’s UN address — DM):

 

Egypt’s Christians in the Shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood

August 11, 2015

Egypt’s Christians in the Shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood, Washington Free Beacon, August 11, 2015

(Please see also, WFB’s Bill Gertz discusses story on Obama support for Muslim Brotherhood on Steve Malzberg Show. — DM)

Copts view the Obama administration cynically. Egyptians now whisper that the American president who pleased Arab liberals with his speech “A New Beginning” at al-Azhar in 2009 is secretly funding the Muslim Brotherhood and purposefully neglecting the Islamic State. A group of Copts protested outside of the White House in February 2015, demanding more aggressive action against IS following the beheading of the 21 Copts.

Al-Ahram, the largest newspaper in Egypt, published reports in 2013 that the United States diplomatic mission in Egypt, led by Ambassador Anne Patterson, was discouraging Coptic Christians from participating in protests against Morsi. Even though Patterson adamantly denied the accusations, the report sowed more distrust among Copts.

Tensions between the Coptic community and the administration worsened when, in the same year, an Obama Homeland Security adviser named Mohamed Elibiary suggested Copts raising awareness of their persecution were promoting “Islamophobic” bigotry.

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Christian Coptic Priest Father Samuel reacts as he stands inside the burned and heavily damaged St. Mousa church in Minya, Egypt / AP

In the nearly five years of turmoil that have followed the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, no group in Egypt has suffered more than the 15 million Coptic Christians. Both a religious and ethnic minority, the Copts are descended from the native population of Egypt who lived and ruled there from the time of the pharaohs until the Roman conquest in 31 B.C. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East today.

Copts have long been the target of discrimination and persecution in the majority-Arab nation. But this ancient people faced a terrifying new prospect in 2012: Muslim Brotherhood rule.

After Mubarak was ousted, the violence began almost immediately. Churches and schools were burned; peaceful protestors were massacred. When parliamentary elections were held nine months later, they were swept by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties. When Mohamed Morsi won the presidential election in May 2012, the party’s victory looked complete. The same year, Morsi gave himself unlimited powers and the party drafted a new constitution inspired by Sharia law.

Morsi benefitted from the organizational advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood. Backed by imams preaching the benefits of religious rule, the previously banned political party was able to defeat the fractured coalitions of the pro-West, liberal, and secular candidates.

“They used thugs to carry out political intimidation against Christians,” a former member of Egyptian Parliament told the Washington Free Beacon. Chants celebrating the Brotherhood victory echoed through the streets of Cairo. “Morsi won! Copts out!”

Ousted president Mohamed Morsi / AP

During Morsi’s rule, Christians were murdered and tortured by the hundreds. Attacks and abductions of Christian children spiked significantly. “Most Americans do not know how vicious and bloody the Muslim Brotherhood is,” Ahmed, a 24-year old secular Muslim, said. “They really can’t understand.”

Pope Tawadros II, Egypt’s Coptic Christian leader, criticized Morsi for negligence after six Christians were killed when police and armed civilians besieged Egypt’s largest cathedral. “We want actions, not words,” the Pope said.

Public accusations of blasphemy also became ubiquitous. A Facebook post interpreted as undermining Islam could bring a mob of fundamentalists with rocks and Molotov cocktails to the homes of Christians, surrounding them with families trapped inside. Sham trials with no legal representation would follow. Anti-Christian terrorism was not punished, but the wrong words often landed Copts in prison, forcing the church to make public apologies and families to leave their towns and villages.

Lydia, an activist who provides relief supplies to torn Christian communities in Upper Egypt, and who requested that only her first name be used to preserve her safety and that of her colleagues, witnessed the Muslim Brotherhood offer the very poorest Egyptians social services that bought their allegiance. “When you have no food or money, you will listen to anyone who gives you the resources your family desperately needs,” Lydia said. “They brainwash the illiterate with extremism so they hurt Christians.”

Still, Morsi’s authoritarian rule—rewriting the constitution, disbanding the Egyptian parliament, tossing potentially obstructive judges into jail—was not long lived. Barely a year after he assumed office, a reported 35 million citizens took to the streets to protest his rule, leading the Egyptian military, under Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to remove him from power in July 2013.

Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi protest at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 26, 2013 / AP

Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) told the Free Beacon that had al-Sisi not responded, the promise of Egyptian Democracy would have died. “What it seemed the Egyptian people wanted was more opportunity to be able have some sort of functioning democracy, elections, input into their own government,” Lankford said. “It was the immediate understanding as soon as the Muslim Brotherhood was elected, that was the last election Egypt would have.”

In 2014, al-Sisi was elected Egypt’s new president. He won a solid electoral victory, giving him control of the Egyptian government with the responsibilities of forming a new constitution, a new parliament, and a new judicial system. The Coptic Church fervently supported al-Sisi’s candidacy because the new president promised Copts equality in citizenship, security in their communities, and the ability to build places of worship.

The new Egyptian president challenged the leaders of the Islamic world to push a more moderate message. In December 2014, hundreds of Christian and Muslim theologians gathered at al-Azhar, Egypt’s leading mosque and religious university, participated in a conference to fight “jihad” and promote inclusion. Al-Sisi ambitiously called for a “religious revolution” in January 2015, saying that clerics bear responsibility for the growing extremism in the Middle East.

As president, al-Sisi took many symbolic steps to integrate the Coptic community with the majority Sunni population. In a surprise to most Egyptians, al-Sisi attended a mass at Saint Mark Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo on Christmas Eve, a first for any Egyptian president. Al-Sisi regularly invites Pope Tawadros II to appear beside him when he announces major policy rollouts or requests public dialogue from senior advisers.

Al-Sisi also appointed two Copts as members of his cabinet. Under the constitution, the president of Egypt has the power to select 10 members of parliament. Political observers believe he will select Copts to fill a majority of those appointed seats to offer a more representative parliament.

“Our lives haven’t changed much but one positive result of the revolution is the Egyptian people have politically woken up,” said Hala, a Mubarak-era government official who also wished to be identified by her first name only because she fears political retribution. “We no longer accept what we are told. Egyptians are at least aware of the government’s actions and they are more aware of the troubles Copts face.”

But while al-Sisi’s administration provides a welcome change of tone toward the Coptic community, the day-to-day lives of Copts remain little changed from the Mubarak days.

Coptic Solidarity is a five-year-old public charity organization and advocacy group devoted to advancing equality for Copts in Egypt. Their efforts have helped raise awareness about the persecution Christians face in the Middle East. Alex Shalaby, an Egyptian businessman currently residing in the United States and Coptic Solidarity’s new president, believes Egypt under al-Sisi has continued many of the same practices as previous presidents Sadat, Mubarak, and Morsi.

“Discrimination is rampant, especially in Upper Egypt. We still see reconciliation tactics pressuring the closing of Christian churches and there are still very few Coptic government appointees, he explained. “Coptic Solidarity monitors all developments within Egypt and we are not able to say much has been accomplished in terms of real change to improve Coptic lives in the last 12 months.”

Human rights groups have been critical of al-Sisi’s record. Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui accused the president of “employing the same methods of torture and other ill-treatment used during the darkest hours of the Mubarak era.” The Egyptian government received heavy criticism after a court sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members to death, intensifying its crackdown on Islamists.

Despite assurances from al-Sisi, sectarian violence still regularly occurs in the rural villages of Upper Egypt where the government has less control.

In Nasreya, Islamists responded to a video of five Christian students making fun of the Islamic State terrorist groups by demanding the students be turned over to the authorities for insulting the religion of Islam. Villagers hurled rocks at Copts and vandalized their property. No arrests were reported for the attacks but the teacher and students were imprisoned for days.

On March 26, 2015, in El Galaa another horde gathered to protest the building of a new church that served 1,400 Christians, also attacking Christian homes in a similar manner. The local government forced the new church to have no outer symbol of Christianity. In Mayana and Abu Qurqas villages, police raided churches, confiscated items from the altar, and shut down reconstruction work.

Lydia, the activist based in Upper Egypt, has witnessed firsthand the damage from these attacks. “I had to console a girl, nine years old, crying because she was afraid her parents were going to be kicked out of their own home,” she said.
“They are poor, illiterate, and now their home is burned and their own community has banned them. All because they are Christians,” she continued.

“The police don’t bother to protect Christians. They do the exact opposite in Upper Egypt,” Lydia said. “The local governments have been loaded with Islamists for years.”

But violence is not exclusive to the country’s outskirts. On June 30, 2015, the two-year anniversary of the popular uprising against Morsi, Islamists detonated bombs by the homes of well-known Christians. Additionally, The Fathers Church in Alexandria was firebombed on July 22, 2015. This summer’s assassination of Egypt’s Attorney General Hesham Barakat in a car bombing, reportedly carried out by a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, served as an ugly reminder that Egypt’s violence has not passed.

An Egyptian policeman stands guard at the site of a car bombing that killed n Egyptian policeman stands guard at the site of a car bombing that killed Hesham Barakat / AP

Despite these problems, al-Sisi still enjoys support among prominent Copts. Amir Ramzy is a prominent Coptic judge and public figure in Egypt’s legal system, and a loyal defender of al-Sisi’s administration.

“We cannot remove prejudice overnight,” Ramzy said. “We must focus on changing the attitude of the people on the ground first.”

The judge pointed to the dire state al-Sisi found the country in when he took office as reason for slow progress.

“Egypt is fighting Islamists inside and outside our borders. Egypt is fighting a horrid economy with massive unemployment. Al-Sisi is taking on large projects to change these conditions,” Ramzy said. “It is difficult to control chaos and promote social change at the same time.”

The judge referred to the decades it took the United States to implement civil rights reforms. He asked for reasonable expectations out of Egypt’s new president and insists under al-Sisi the country is heading in the right direction. “Just one year after his election, Egypt has new roads, a new canal, new investments, and a new hope for the poor.”

Despite not being content with the pace of progress, Shalaby said al-Sisi is an improvement over his predecessor. As a retired executive, he said he understood national security and economic development should be the president’s priority. “Al-Sisi must do what is best for Egypt first. What is best for Egypt is what is best for Copts. What is good for Copts is good for Egypt.”

Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi / AP

Copts view the Obama administration cynically. Egyptians now whisper that the American president who pleased Arab liberals with his speech “A New Beginning” at al-Azhar in 2009 is secretly funding the Muslim Brotherhood and purposefully neglecting the Islamic State. A group of Copts protested outside of the White House in February 2015, demanding more aggressive action against IS following the beheading of the 21 Copts.

Al-Ahram, the largest newspaper in Egypt, published reports in 2013 that the United States diplomatic mission in Egypt, led by Ambassador Anne Patterson, was discouraging Coptic Christians from participating in protests against Morsi. Even though Patterson adamantly denied the accusations, the report sowed more distrust among Copts.

Egyptians publicly celebrated when Patterson left the country.

Tensions between the Coptic community and the administration worsened when, in the same year, an Obama Homeland Security adviser named Mohamed Elibiary suggested Copts raising awareness of their persecution were promoting “Islamophobic” bigotry. Elibiary, who generated controversy due to views perceived by some to be friendly to the Muslim Brotherhood, released a series of tweets with the R4BIA salute, perceived to be a symbol of hate by many in Egypt.

Elbiary later deleted his tweets and removed the symbol. Bishop Angaelos, Pope Tawadros II’s personal representative called the incident “disturbing.” Elbiary left the Obama administration under pressure from critics in 2014.

Following the ouster of Morsi, the United States canceled weapons deliveries to Egypt and halted all military aid. As the White House took its time to build a relationship with al-Sisi, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the country and signed a nuclear agreement.

The White House announced in the spring of 2015 that weapons deliveries to Egypt would ultimately be resumed.

Despite the uneasiness in the country, Christians believe they will one day be equal citizens in their homeland. Such progress may be slow and painful, but amidst anxiety there is hope in Egypt.

Much of this hope is derived from the perception of al-Sisi’s decent treatment of the Copts. Ramzy, the judge, told theFree Beacon, “al-Sisi may not be perfect, but he is Copts’ best chance to promote ourselves from second class citizens. He should receive America’s support.”