Like Pakistan, which I mentioned this morning, Egypt has experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence at the hands of Muslim extremists. But the reaction in Egypt has been far different from Pakistan’s, and far more inspiring.
2011 began in Egypt with 23 Coptic Christians killed, and about a hundred injured, as a result of a bombing at one of their churches. The assailant is believed to be an al Qaeda-aligned Muslim extremist apparently upset that the Copts in Egypt haven’t been exterminated in the centuries since Islam came to dominate the region. The initial reaction to the bombing was divisive: Copts rioted, angry at Egypt’s repeated failure to provide protection against these attacks, and some Copts went into a mosque and threw books. But quickly, Egyptians en masse rose above the sort of divisiveness that the bomber likely intended, and there was a pretty massive outpouring of sympathy from Egyptian Muslims over what happened. This editorial is pretty typical, in which an Egyptian Muslim (Hani Shukrallah) penned a pretty scathing editorial about the country’s persecution of the Coptic minority. Pretty soon, there were promises: promises to ensure that the Coptic Christmas (which is celebrated on the 7th of December, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, which the Vatican celebrates as Epiphany) would go off without a hitch, that worshipers could thank God for coming into history without fear that it’d be the last thing they do.
And amazingly, thousands upon thousands of Egyptian Muslims walked the walk. By that I mean: they formed a human shield around the church where the Coptic Pope was saying Mass, so that any suicide bombers would have to kill scores of Muslims before ever getting to a Coptic target. That’s incredible, and it’s beautiful. Amongst those present were the President’s son, a popular Muslim imam, and a lot of regular folks willing to die to preserve the right of their Christian neighbors to worship God in peace.
I think Pakistan’s dark and depressing story needs to be told, in which families like the Tassers rise above a sick society, but I think we also need to remember Egypt’s story, in which a nation rose above the expectations we might have placed upon its Muslim majority.