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Pages tagged "egypt"
Joseph Loconte: How Religion Can End the Politics of Persecution
· August 21, 2013 10:00 AM
Below is an interesting article by Joseph Loconte which explores religion and the conflict in Egypt.
The article originally appeared in The Times of London.
Faith can end Egypt’s politics of persecution
By appealing to the noblest religious impulses, the West can stop violence against Christians
wo days after the ousting of President Morsi of Egypt, Emile Naseem, 41, and his nephew were running for their lives. The Christian businessman had led an anti-Morsi petition, and a mob in their village of Nagaa Hassan attacked the pair with axes and clubs as they scrambled on to a roof and jumped from building to building. As one report put it: “Finally they ran out of rooftops.” Mr Naseem was killed, his nephew badly injured. That day Islamist extremists stabbed to death three other Christians and burnt dozens of homes in the village.
The attack is now considered the prelude to last week’s violence in Cairo between Egypt’s military government and the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is more than that: it represents a larger and more ominous tide of religious persecution that is destabilising societies around the globe.
Several powerful forces are at work. The Arab Spring is unleashing the hatreds of Islamic radicalism against Christian and other religious minorities. According to a report by the Pew Research Centre, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have witnessed “pronounced increases in social hostilities involving religion” since 2011. The violence may be most graphic in Egypt and Syria, where militants are targeting religious groups deemed disloyal to Islam. Shia and Sunni Muslims are no less at risk than Coptic Christians or Bahais.
Nevertheless, human rights groups warn of an “existential crisis” facing Christians in the Muslim world. In Egypt, 16 human rights groups have signed a joint statement condemning incitement to violence against Christians. In Syria, an estimated 300,000 Christians have fled the country. In Turkey, Christians have been publicly called “an internal threat, a danger and an enemy”. Iraq’s Christian population has been devastated by persecution and flight, since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians
, Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea blame the globalisation of radical Islam: extremists who view Christian communities as an obstacle to a “purified” transnational Islamic state. Indonesia, for example, has maintained a relatively tolerant society — until recently. Islamists have orchestrated hundreds of attacks on churches, mostly with impunity. In Nigeria the Islamist group Boko Haram — it means “Western education is sinful” — is engaged in a “pogrom” against the nation’s 60 million Christians. A recent attack on a Pentecostal church and two other Christian communities in Kano left nearly 50 people dead.
Another factor is the expansion of laws restricting religious freedom: 64 nations, making up nearly 70 per cent of the world’s population, place high or very high restrictions on religion. Muslim-majority states, which typically criminalise “blasphemy”, or religious speech considered insulting to Islam, are the worst offenders.
Pakistan has been singled out for criticism by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which sees a direct link between blasphemy laws and a culture of religious persecution. Over 18 months, it documented 203 acts of religiously motivated violence, injuring more than 1,800 people and claiming more than 700 lives. The methods included suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, torture, beheadings and mob violence.
A final factor contributing to the rise of religious persecution is the loss of what might be called civilisational memory. Secular elites, especially in the West, tend to view all religious beliefs with indifference or suspicion. They have forgotten how religious ideals can play a crucial role in solving sectarian violence. As a result, their response has been feeble and ineffective.
Remember that in the 17th century churches in England and Europe regarded religious minorities as a criminal underclass: they faced discrimination, imprisonment or even execution. Entire populations lived in the shadows because of religious differences.
How did the West overcome its legacy of bigotry and repression?
It was only when religious leaders viewed freedom of conscience as a natural right that the politics of persecution came under sustained assault. Religious thinkers from John Locke to James Madison dared to imagine a more generous approach to Christian faith. By appealing to the noblest religious impulses, by insisting upon a political system of equal justice for all faiths, they showed antagonists how to live together.
“It is not the diversity of opinions which cannot be avoided,” wrote Locke in
A Letter Concerning Toleration
(1689). “But the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions, which might have been granted, that has produced all the bustles and wars that have been in the Christian world, upon account of religion.”
We in the West seem dumbfounded by the revenge of religion: the remorseless acts of terror committed daily in the name of God. It need not be so. Abdurrahman Wahid, the late President of Indonesia, put it this way: “Beyond the daily headlines of chaos and violence, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims continue to express their admiration of Muhammad by seeking to emulate the peaceful and tolerant example of his life.”
There is a path through this wilderness of persecution, if we can summon the wisdom, courage and faith to take it.
Joseph Loconte is an associate professor of history at the King’s College, New York City.
Bishop Suriel on the Political Spot about conflict in Egypt
· August 20, 2013 10:00 AM
His Grace Bishop Suriel is from the Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia. In this interview with the ACL's Katherine Spackman he talks about the recent attacks on Copts in Egypt. Click the button below or
Melbourne: Copts gather in prayer for persecuted Christians in Egypt
· August 20, 2013 10:00 AM
On Saturday 17th August, Coptic Christians gathered at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne where Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Orthodox Church held a service to pray for Christians persecuted and killed in the current violence in Egypt.
ACL was represented by Paul Whitehead (above image, 7th from right); Liberal MP for Menzies Kevin Andrews was also present, along with representatives for the Prime Minister and the Catholic Church.
Bishop Suriel was interviewed by 702ABC Sydney yesterday about the current persecution and violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt in light of the mass on Saturday. You can listen to the interview and read more about the issue
Violence against Coptic Christians has escalated in Egypt since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. In April this year, a violent attack against Christians at St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo left two people dead and many wounded. Dozens of churches around the country have been looted and torched, and threats have been made against the new pope in Alexandria. Christian women have also been sexually harassed and abused on the streets of Cairo, and shops and homes in Christian villages have been graffitied and vandalised.
The ACL has long advocated for greater action to be taken by the Australian government to ensure the protection and safety of such vulnerable minority groups. Earlier this year, the
ACL urged the government
to condemn these attacks and to put pressure on Egyptian leaders to uphold freedom of religion in the country.
MR: PNG agreement an opportunity to reset priorities and expand refugee intake
· July 22, 2013 10:00 AM
For release: Tuesday, 23rd July, 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby says the Papua New Guinea arrangement is an acceptable response to the tragedy of deaths at sea as long as humanitarian concerns are met and it allows Australia to expand its refugee intake to areas of greatest need.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said there were no easy or perfect solutions to stopping the deaths at sea generated by people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers.
“This new policy hinges on a lot of complex detail which is yet to be resolved, including providing humane living conditions for asylum seekers whose claims are being processed in PNG,” Mr Shelton said.
“However, if it is successful in stopping the deaths at sea and re-settling people humanely, Australians must not be lulled into thinking that our responsibility as a nation to asylum seekers is over.
“The impasse over people smuggling has diverted both public and parliamentary attention from areas of real and pressing need.
“We must prioritise our offer of refuge to those who are proven vulnerable minorities and Syria and Egypt should be our immediate focus,” Mr Shelton said.
“Then we must look to resettle those who as a result of previous conflicts are still languishing in refugee camps – some for as long as ten years.
“There are 45 million displaced people fleeing persecution and we have a responsibility as a nation to do our part and to work with the international community to help these people regardless of whether or not the boats are stopped.
“ACL welcomes the government’s plans to increase our humanitarian intake to 27,000 and urges bi-partisan support for this. There is capacity for us to be even more generous with our humanitarian program,” Mr Shelton said.
“If people smuggling ceases, Australia will be in a position to do more to help refugees languishing in camps who had no ability to pay smugglers and any so-called PNG solution is a sensible response to people smuggling, but must be the circuit breaker that allows us to prioritise our support to those in greatest need and danger.
“In this regard Government and Opposition calls to see the Refugee Convention reviewed are timely,” Mr Shelton said.
“Its post-World War II context takes no account of the fact that people can be in equal fear of their lives from famine or natural disaster and should also be treated as refugees.”
Chris Bowen raises plight of Egypt's coptic community in parliament
· May 30, 2013 10:00 AM
Last night the
Federal Labor Member for McMahon Chris Bowen spoke about the plight of Copts in Egypt in the House of Representatives. The transcript of his speech can be read below or
and his video address is below.
Tonight I wish to raise in the House of Representatives the plight of the Copts of Egypt. Copts make up between five and 10 per cent of Egypt's population, but they are suffering persecution and they are suffering violence as a growing concern. Copts have always been a group in Egypt who has been at risk but now we are seeing the Coptic community having their property stolen or destroyed, their members harassed and beaten, and their places of worship burnt or demolished. Due to a recent increase in tax, we have seen an estimated 100,000 Coptic people leave the nation of Egypt.
Now it is very clear that there is an obligation on every government of every nation of the world to provide protection to its citizens, protection regardless of race or religion. That obligation of protection of citizens falls on the government of Egypt, just as it falls on every other government in the world. We saw perhaps the first spectacular outbreak of violence with the Maspero massacre of October 2011, in which Copts staged a peaceful demonstration outside a local television station. They were protesting against the demolition of a church in northern Egypt.
By happenstance I was visiting St Mark Coptic church of Arncliffe the next day, and I recall being briefed on the events in Maspero square the night before—just before I visited the Church of St Mark in Arncliffe— and talking to the congregation of that church about the Australian government's concerns. We saw the deaths of more than 20 Coptic Christians in that massacre and the injury of many, many others. We saw St Mark and Pope Peter church in 2011 being attacked, and more
recently we have seen more attacks on the cathedral of St Mark in Egypt. An attack on a cathedral anywhere is an attack on cathedrals and on freedom everywhere.
I know that there are many, many people in Australia who are deeply concerned about the situation of Copts in Egypt, as I am, as other members of the House are and as the government is. I know the foreign minister, Bob Carr, is very alive to these concerns. I know he has raised the plight of Copts directly with President Morsi.
I know he has also raised the plight of Christians in the Middle East more generally with former Secretary of State Clinton, current Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Secretary Hague. I also think it is important that Australia uses its role as a member of the UN Security Council to be prosecuting the case for enhanced protection of Christians in the Middle East. I think the plight of Christians in the Middle East is one of the world's crises at the moment that is not receiving enough attention. Clearly the plight of the Copts of Egypt is one of those situations that is not receiving enough attention, and all members of the House and the other place would do well to ensure that it receives more attention. I know that former foreign minister Rudd felt this matter particularly keenly, and he hosted a reception of Copts on his visit to Egypt when he was foreign minister of Australia.
It has been my great pleasure to work with many members of the Coptic community, to work with Sayedna Bishop Daniel and Sayedna Bishop Sureil of Melbourne on these issues during my time as both a minister in the government and as the member for McMahon. I have also worked with the Australian Coptic movement. I have attended their rallies, including a recent rally in Sydney at Martin Place. We had hoped that the earlier rallies would be the last. We had hoped that the rallies in 2011 would be the last because we would no longer need to rally for freedom of religion for the Copts of Egypt. But alas we have had to continue to rally. Alas we have had to continue to fight and argue—and we will continue to do so.
As I said, it is incumbent on all governments to protect their citizens in every regard. It is incumbent on all governments to ensure that their people can live in peace and freedom and harmony. And the Copts of Egypt are not currently living in peace and freedom and harmony, and it is incumbent on the government of Egypt to ensure that they can. In many cases the revolution we have seen in the Middle East has resulted in poor outcomes, in worse outcomes for Christians. We have seen that in Iraq; we are seeing that now in Egypt. The Arab Spring has turned to an Arab winter for many, many people in the Middle East. Those people in the Middle East, in Egypt, and their friends and relatives in Australia, in my electorate and in electorates around the country need to know they have many friends in the House of Representatives, as indeed they do.
ACL's Jim Wallace writes in The Australian about persecuted Christians in Syria
· May 29, 2013 10:00 AM
The Australian Christian Lobby's deputy chairman Jim Wallace had an opinion piece published in The Australian recently. A copy of the opinion piece is published below but can be read online
. An extended version of Mr Wallace's piece was also published in MercatorNet called
We cannon abandon Syrian Christians
West must act decisively to protect Syria's persecuted Christians
THE hardest test of foreign policy is not its intersections at the lofty geopolitical level but where it inevitably affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East.
As I visited the area recently to assess the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict, it quickly became evident that the West's policy there courts a disaster.
I was not surprised. While my experience was dated, I had lived in the Middle East and observed some of its most enduring conflicts. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to have taught us little.
Some level of confusion about Middle East politics is excusable for anyone.
Attempts to decipher it are always muddied by a bewildering array of sects and agendas in the context of alliances of convenience, even between sworn enemies.
But surely an alliance with al-Qa'ida is beyond the pale for any US government, even if its purpose is to counter Iran's influence.
The pictures of the American family devastated by the Boston bomb would be enough for me, but the US State Department certainly hasn't considered Syria's Christian minorities adequately.
There are reports of heartbreak as people who lived in harmony for decades are suddenly turned into bitter enemies by the radicalisation of previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the al-Qa'ida proxy Jabhat al-Nusra.
Syria has always been somewhat unusual in the Arab world for its secularism and religious freedom.
When I lived in Damascus for six months, Christian churches were easy to find and join. There was also a ready acceptance by Muslims and Druze, many of whom became good friends. And it seems this continued to be the case until the revolution two years ago. Then cries of "Alawites out" and "Christians to Lebanon" suddenly filled the air in crowds stirred up by extremists.
For Christians to be thrown out of Syria after more than 2000 years of history is too much for most. Despite the steady flow of refugees, most will stay. But the cost of staying is extreme.
Al-Nusra empties any area it captures of the "infidels". Occupants of centuries-old Christian quarters in the ancient cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs have been turned out of their homes with nothing. The aged are not spared and those refusing to leave are sometimes killed.
Also heartbreaking for these ancient communities is that their churches in the occupied parts of these cities have been destroyed and desecrated, at least one being used as a toilet by al-Nusra, as an illustration of its utter contempt for Christianity.
There are some Christians fighting with the Free Syrian Army. Although they were part of an initially secular opposition, their position becomes increasingly tenuous as al-Nusra's dominance of the opposition increases by the day.
As always in war, it is perhaps the women who suffer most.
Al-Nusra fighters see Christian women as little more than booty. One woman tearfully told of a friend considering suicide as she contemplated the possibility of rape, which two of her friends had suffered. As a Christian in an al-Nusra-held area, she knew she risked the same fate.
These are ancient Christian communities that look to Western governments not to abandon them by pursuing irrational policies, including a partnership with foreign jihadists allied to al-Qa'ida.
It is long past time for the West to make a stand in two other areas that are essential to combating Muslim extremism at home and abroad.
The first is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding the extremist al-Qa'ida fighters, must be told to back off.In addition we cannot accept that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for al-Qa'ida in Syria as part of a contingent of foreign fighters drawn from Western and Middle Eastern Islamic communities.
All Western countries must pass and enforce anti-mercenary laws that will forbid their nationals from fighting as mercenaries without losing their nationality.
We have an army to fight our wars and joining it should be the only way for an Australian to become a combatant.
The so-called Arab Spring was never going to be that for anyone but extremists across the Middle East. Unless the West reconsiders its support to an opposition dominated by al-Qa'ida, vulnerable Syrian Christians will face even worse persecution than that experienced by Egypt's Copts.
Jim Wallace is deputy chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby.
In the media - a wrap up of the last week's commentary
· April 10, 2013 10:00 AM
In the last week, the ACL has been quoted in the media on the issue of religious persecution in Egypt and on proposed changes to abortion legislation in Tasmania. See below for links to mentions in the media.
On proposed changes to abortion laws in Tasmania:
The Examiner -
Flood of views on abortion bill
On an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt:
The International News Magazine -
ACL condemns latest attack against heart of Christianity in Middle East
Also, ACL's Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton was interviewed by UCB Australia while participating at Easterfest in Toowoomba late last month.
He shares some of his beliefs about the role of Christianity in today's society and the importance of maintaining a strong Christian voice in politics.
Click the YouTube video above to watch Lyle's interview.
Bishop Suriel on the Political Spot about symbolic attack on Christianity in Egypt
· April 09, 2013 10:00 AM
Bishop Suriel of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions talks to ACL's Katherine Spackman on the Political Spot about the latest attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt. The attack occurred at the epicentre of the International Coptic Orthodox community and is seen as a symbolic attack on Christianity in the middle east. See ACL's media release on the issue
MR: ACL condemns latest attack against heart of Christianity in Middle East
MR: ACL condemns latest attack against heart of Christianity in Middle East
· April 08, 2013 10:00 AM
Monday, 8th April 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed concern at the latest attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt which occurred at the epicentre of the International Coptic Orthodox community and has urged the Australian Government to denounce these attacks.
ACL’s Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said the latest attack against Copts at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, in which a person died, was at the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
“The Coptic Community in Australia sees this as a symbolic attack on Christianity on Egypt which is incomprehensible,” he said.
“No minority in any country should be subjected to fear of expressing their faith. Sadly violence against Copts has escalated since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power,” he said.
“It is important that the Prime Minister’s Office and Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs condemns these attacks today and urges action from the Egyptian Government to protect its citizens and to uphold freedom of religion.
“The Coptic Community is in a minority position in a Muslim country. This is simply another incident in a long line of suffering for these people by attackers deliberately targeting them for their faith,” he said
Jim Wallace & Dan Flynn attend opening of new Coptic church in Victoria
· September 19, 2012 10:00 AM
On Saturday 15 September, ACL's Managing Director Jim Wallace and ACL Victorian Director Dan Flynn were among the guests of His Grace Bishop Suriel at the grand opening of the Saint Mina & Saint Marina's Coptic Church in Hallam, Victoria. Guests included numerous Federal and State MP's and Councillors from the City of Casey.
In March 1993, the late Coptic Pope visited the site in Hallam to lay the foundation stone and famously declared that "just as our Lord Jesus Christ was born in a manger, so too we will build the church in this cattle shed".
The unrelenting efforts of the congregation has resulted in the completion of a $6 million three story church which is a prominent landmark in the City of Casey. The new church is the home parish to approximately 600 families. Many of these families have recently arrived in Melbourne after fleeing persecution in Egypt.
Father Abanoub Attalla, the Parish Priest of St Mina & St Marina, was warmly acknowledged for his pastoral leadership of the families and youth of the Coptic community in Hallam and integration of Egyptian refugees. Presenting the inaugural "Key of the City of Casey" to Bishop Suriel, the Mayor of Casey, Cr Sam Aziz praised him for his strength of leadership and example saying he had showed courage in standing “ against those whose superficial quest for so called political correctness constantly outweighs their moral integrity".
In keeping with these convictions, Bishop Suriel has been a prominent supporter of traditional marriage and recently signed a statement delivered to the Federal Parliament, together with 19 of Australia's denominational leaders and 267 other church leaders, urging the Parliament to protect the Marriage Act. The statement says:
"Marriage is the lifelong commitment and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family because it secures the relationship between biological parents and their children."
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