It’s the latest in ongoing deadly, genocidal assaults against Christians.
Lest we forget others…
Twenty-five worshipers, mostly women, died in the St. Peter’s blast. It is part of an ominous trend. Twenty Copts were killed by their neighbors during the 2000 New Year massacre in El Kosheh village. The Dec. 31, 2010, bombing of a church in Alexandria left 23 dead. The 2013 burning of more than 50 churches by Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators was the worst violence on Coptic churches since the 14th century. And the February 2015 beheading of 20 Coptic workers by Islamic State on the shores of Libya was the most horrifying incident for Copts in memory.
Persecution has never been alien to the Copts. Roman and Byzantine emperors, along with Arab and Turkish caliphs and rulers, have each claimed their share of Coptic blood. A church that stood as one of the pillars of Christianity in late antiquity was reduced to a small minority struggling for survival…
President Sisi may be personally sympathetic to the Copts, but his government has done little to protect them. Deadly bombings capture the world’s attention for a moment, but daily life for Copts in Egypt is a struggle.
That’s what so many people in humanitarian organizations work on changing every single day, something I highlight on my radio program frequently, and personally work with groups and individuals to advance awareness and advocacy. We have to encourage those with power to stop this, and meanwhile work to protect people, provide safe haven, get supplies and help they need to stay in place or nearby when possible, and tell their stories and show their faces to humanize what is otherwise an ‘issue’.
Genocide is an ‘issue’. It was finally acknowledged in a unanimous resolution passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, followed by admission by then Secretary of State John Kerry that what was happening was indeed, genocide.
A month later, I attended a UN conference on genocide and mass atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities, and a few months later another conference on Capitol Hill on advocacy going forward for these populations who remain in harm’s way and plead for help from anyone able to provide it. Fervent faith leaders, government leaders and religious freedom organization members brainstormed and planned for urgent action to help vulnerable populations.
I recorded several interviews and some testimony from the UN conference, and took notes from personal conversation with activists, and brought it to radio programs repeatedly. Last week, I aired the interview I did with Archbishop Jean Claude Jeanbart of Aleppo on Syrian Christians. Before that, the one with Fr. Douglas Bazi from Erbil, himself a former victim of ISIS torture. And repeated conversations on radio with top human rights activists, like former Congressman Frank Wolf and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Religious Freedom Institute’s Tom Farr and Kent Hill, and Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea. And many more.
This picture…is one of the last photographs taken of a young altar server at one of the Palm Sunday liturgies in Egypt this morning. A bomb ripped through the church, killing dozens, including this little boy.
This is the human face of the issue of terrorism and genocide. These deadly attacks can’t capture our attention for a moment, in between other news headlines and distractions, while life goes on in the comfortable West and every day is a real struggle to survive in dangerous regions of the Middle East.
We have to do anything within our ability, within our sphere of influence, and that includes the Members of Congress elected to represent the people, to urge action. And help the organizations helping the people like the little altar boy’s surviving family, and his community.