Charles Jacobs: In Egypt, Christians Endure their “Kristallnacht”

Charles Jacobs

December 21, 2011

Recently Jews in synagogues around the world heard an ancient prophesy about a time of tribulation for the Christians. In the haftarah, the Prophet Obadiah hears G-d warning the Edomites (traditionally a Jewish term for the people who eventually made up the Christian world): “Behold on that day… Your mighty ones to the South will be broken… every man will be cut off by the slaughter…”

How eerily reflective of the moment: Within just the last couple of weeks, the Washington-based Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a “Genocide Warning” for Christians and other religious minorities across the Middle East, and launched a petition urging President Barack Obama to speak up.

The “Arab Spring” seems to be rapidly springing shut on Middle East Christians, most clearly in Egypt where Islamists scored a landslide victory in the first of a three-stage parliamentary election there. The Muslim Brotherhood – whose goals include world conquest in the name of Allah, and whose motto is “Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope” – gained 40 percent of the vote, and the Salafists – who are said to be even more radical – garnered 25 percent. And that’s just in the big cities. AsJerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick surmises, the results will only get worse as results trickle in from the more religious hinterland.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s yuppies – the grand hope of dreamy Westerners – Twittered and Facebooked themselves a pathetic 15 percent of the vote. They will likely fade away, be absorbed or be wiped out.

While Israel fears for its peace treaty with the Arab world’s biggest country, Egypt’s Copts face a more immediate crisis. This Christian minority, which numbers some 11 million, was established in the land of the pharaohs long before the Islamic conquests. For the Copts, the “Arab Spring” is already a deep, deep, cold winter – and Obadiah’s words might seem a contemporary foreboding.

On December 7, Cynthia Farahat, a Coptic writer and human rights activist, testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission about the plight of her people. Farahat’s colleague Michael Mosad was one of the Christian men crushed by a military vehicle during the October 9 Maspero massacre, triggered by Copts protesting the burning of their churches by Islamist thugs. Farahat told the commission:

His legs were nearly severed from his body. As [Michael’s fiancée] sat next to him …soldiers gathered … brutally beating and kicking his motionless body. Vivian threw her body over his to protect him … but military officers beat and cursed her; they called her an infidel, ‘Christian sons of dogs,’ and worse–

Bothaina Kamel, a Muslim TV personality who hid inside a television station during the protests, heard the soldiers and the policemen yelling “Allahu Akbar” as they brutally beat the protestors.

Kamel told the commission she was able to get out of the building only by claiming she was a believing Muslim. She said that she had been warned that the military was inspecting people’s hands, as many Copts had tattoos of crosses. She said to leave the building, she had to trudge through the blood of Christians whom the soldiers had beaten to death.

Gordon College is a Christian school between Salem and Rockport. A few weeks ago I spoke there at a commemoration of Kristallnacht, Germany’s night of broken glass, the first mass assault on Europe’s Jews and the harbinger of the Shoah. I told the Christian audience how good it was to feel Christian support for Jews in these times, and that even some of the most stubborn of my people were now appreciating Evangelical support for Israel. I also said that we felt this blessed support came from a spirit of Christian altruism. But given the news from the Middle East, concern for others is surely not the only reason Christians need to support Israel.

I asked how many in the audience of 250 knew of Anne Frank. Almost every hand shot up. Then I asked how many had heard of Ayman Labib. I got a mass blank stare. Ayman was a 17-year-old Egyptian Christian who just weeks ago was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates as teachers watched because he refused their demand to remove his cross necklace.

I asked how many knew about the Maspero massacre, which had left at least 24 Copts dead and 270 injured. And whether they knew that since January, there had been more than 70 attacks on Christian churches or institutions in Egypt.

While tonight you commemorate a Jewish pogrom, I told them, Christianity has just suffered its own “Kristallnacht” … and I have yet to see much of a Christian response.

Christian persecution is spread throughout the Middle East, I told them. Christians are under siege in Iraq. In Syria, they are clasping tight to Bashir al Assad as a sort of protector, and will be completely vulnerable if – or when – he falls. The Lebanese Christians are threatened by Hezbollah, and the Sudanese Christians lost millions to the Jihad over the last two decades. Christians (and Jews) have been thoroughly “cleansed” from Saudi Arabia already.

In discussions that followed at Gordon, the Christians lamented that they lacked the sense of family that the Jewish people have. “Look at what you did for one Jew, Gilad Shalit. We don’t feel that way about other Christians.” The global jihad, I said, might change that.

Meanwhile, the group Children of Holocaust Survivors, I’m proud to report, is ringing the alarm bells – on Facebook and Twitter – echoing the Christian Solidarity International genocide warning. And I am hearing rumblings of Christians coming awake.

I urge my readers to respond to this real, mounting humanitarian crisis by

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