If any Americans remained unconvinced that barbaric evil is at the cold-blooded heart of the terrorist group ISIS, their recent beheading of journalist James Foley made it graphically undeniable. The moral divide between ISIS and us is clearly marked. And yet there are those among us who still cannot bring themselves to use moral terminology to describe the enemy.
For all of its internal tribulations, there is no doubt that Egypt is a coherent entity, deeply anchored in history and in the consciousness of its population. For all of the problems confronting the Coptic Christian community, no one doubts that they are as Egyptian as the Muslim majority.
The horror stories emerging from northern Iraq, as well as the continuing slaughter in Syria’s civil war, point to a tectonic shift in the Middle East. Almost 100 years after World War I, the regional state system established after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire is unraveling.
ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate
Along with a billion Muslims across the globe, I turn to Mecca in Saudi Arabia every day to say my prayers. But when I visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the resting place of the Prophet Muhammad, I am forced to leave overwhelmed with anguish at the power of extremism running amok in Islam’s birthplace. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter this part of the kingdom, so there is no international scrutiny of the ideas and practices that affect the 13 million Muslims who visit each year.
It was a familiar sight: the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Ahmed at-Tayyeb, and the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, side-by-side as General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the ousting of Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Front seats were granted to the two grey-bearded clerics who had donned their customary robes for the occasion. Since the founding of the Republic of Egypt in 1952, the Church and al-Azhar have often joined efforts with the state authorities. This time another, pious actor befriended the triad: the-Salafist Nour Party. With Egypt then standing on the verge of entering a new adventure, the formation of this curious alliance suggested that religion as a political instrument would not perish.
The ongoing destruction and dislocation of the Christian population in Iraq and Syria as a result of brutal persecution is a profound human tragedy. Entire communities, having fled their historic homes, now face the terrible choice imposed by the jihadists of the Islamic State: submit to Islam, leave, or be killed.
Images from the rolling deserts of Northern Iraq represent only the most recent episode in a harrowing trend. While Christian populations in the region have experienced ongoing decline over the past 60 years — comprising an estimated 18% of the regional population in 1948 vs. less than 8% in 2010 — the emergence of fundamentalist, political Islam has resulted in a dramatic escalation of violent persecution of Christian groups.
Coptic Solidarity is a U.S. public charity organization under section 501 (C) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are deductible under Section 170 of the Code.
Coptic Solidarity 2014 Conference
The Annual Conference was held in Washington, D.C. on June 26-28, 2014.