With the eyes of the world transfixed at the sight of more than a million protestors rising up against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the brutal New Year's Day massacre of Coptic Christians in Alexandria, Egypt, where 23 Christians were killed and 79 injured, seems like ancient history. But the horrifying attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community continue—the latest was last Sunday.
According to the Assyrian International News Service:
The massacre took place on Sunday, January 30 at 3 PM in the village of Sharona near Maghagha, Minya province. Two Islamists groups, aided by the Muslim neighbors, descended on the roof of houses owned by Copts, killing eleven Copts, including children, and seriously injuring four others. The two families were staying in their homes with their doors locked when suddenly the Islamists descended on them, killing eleven and leaving for dead four others family members. In addition, they looted everything that was in the two Coptic houses, including money, furniture and electrical equipment. They also looted livestock and grain.
Unlike other elements of Egypt’s population, the Coptic community is not so quick to call for Mubarak’s ouster. Veteran reporter Arne Fjeldstad, who is in daily contact with Egypt’s Christians during the present crisis explains, “They are very uncertain about the future. They are impressed with how young Egyptian men stood up and took responsibility for the safety in neighborhoods when the police left. But, as the crisis develops, their uncertainty is predominantly related to the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other even more radical Islamic groups. Of course there are Coptic Christian youth among the masses demonstrating both in Alexandria and Cairo as well as other cities. But so far this popular uprising has been dominated by the Muslim majority.”
Meanwhile, although the perpetrators of the church bombing in Alexandria remain unidentified, other churches and individuals have been publically targeted by al Qaeda-linked terrorists. Indeed, it seems the New Year’s attack was part of a coordinated operation targeting Christian communities around the world. On January 7, Coptic Christmas, Copt churches were threatened in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Austria, Sweden and the UK. Police in several of those countries investigated and/or took action to protect the Coptic churches there. During this period various news sources reported not only ongoing statements against Coptic churches, but also the targeting of specific Coptic leaders, whose names and addresses were published online. A key threat emanated from Shumukh al-Islam, a radical Islamist website affiliated with al Qaeda. More than 200 specific Copts were listed as prime targets.
Lela Gilbert is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute and has authored and co-authored numerous books, including the award-winning Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion (Oxford University Press, 2008).