Persecution against Coptic Christians producing “discord, death and destruction” looms in their home country of Egypt, according to The Economist. They highlighted the story of one Coptic shop owner. After falling behind on bills to Muslim clients, his adversaries burned down his house after accusing him of adultery. Also, his “elderly mother was stripped naked and dragged around the village.”
Tragically, this type of violence occurs regularly in Egypt because perpetrators often go unpunished in the Muslim majority country. The justice system treats Coptic Christians like “second-class citizens.” Indeed, opponents commit violence against Coptic Christians (about 5 to 15 percent of the population) on a monthly basis without major repercussions. Cases are often referred to “reconciliation councils” outside of the courts, which often fail to hand out punishments any harsher than fines for crimes like arson.
The situation for Coptic Christians has only deteriorated since the Arab Spring in 2011, and not just in Egypt. Twenty-one Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS in February 2015 in neighboring Libya, which underwent a revolution of its own.
Back in 2013, the late CBS News correspondent Bob Simon reported on 60 Minutes that Coptic Christians had experienced “one of their worst periods ever” the previous summer in terms of persecution. “Copts were murdered by Islamic extremists and dozens of their churches were gutted, after Egypt’s military overthrew the ruling Muslim Brotherhood government,” Simon said.
Simon interviewed Bishop Thomas, whom he described as “senior cleric” in the Coptic Church. The bishop offered a heartfelt and steadfast Christian message.
“Forgiveness is a very important principle in the Christian life,” Bishop Thomas said. “When you are able to present forgiveness and love, you are able as well to ask for justice. One day in this life, justice has to be fulfilled.”
Let us pray for Coptic Christians, both in Egypt and wherever else they may be living; that God keeps them safe, that acts of violence are met with justice, and that God will use their Christ-like reaction toward suffering as a witness to their neighbors.