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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Christian Demonstrations

The funeral of a prominent Christian journalist turned into a massive demonstration by thousands of Copts who stormed Egypt’s main cathedral (Egypt’s vatican) carrying banners and crosses. The demonstrators were demonstrating against the alleged kidnapping of the wife of a Christian priest in southern Egypt and her forced conversion to Islam. They claimed that a number of prominent Muslim officials in their city were involved in this incident. This was not the first time I heard about “forced conversions”, Christians especially those living in the poor areas of southern Egypt said before that Christians girls were blackmailed/kidnapped/coerced to convert to Islam.

I passed by the cathedral at 2 am in the morning and I could still see hundreds of security police sealing off the building.

Regardless of if this story was true or not, the “Coptic problem” in Egypt is very serious. Some call it the ticking bomb of Egypt. Christians, especially those in the south, are increasingly feeling marginalized in the country and threatened from the rising fundamentalism of some Muslims. Numerous religious inspired violence erupted in Egypt especially in the 70s when the late president Sadat became extremely lax with Muslim extremists to fight his Communist and Nasserite (radical Arab nationalists from the Nasser era) opponents.

Tensions between Muslims and Christians is very minimum within the upper and middle class societies. They both live in relative harmony in Egypt’s major cities, however, the situation is not so in the poorer rural areas.

The funeral of a prominent Christian journalist turned into a massive demonstration by thousands of Copts who stormed Egypt’s main cathedral (Egypt’s vatican) carrying banners and crosses. The demonstrators were demonstrating against the alleged kidnapping of the wife of a Christian priest in southern Egypt and her forced conversion to Islam. They claimed that a number of prominent Muslim officials in their city were involved in this incident. This was not the first time I heard about “forced conversions”, Christians especially those living in the poor areas of southern Egypt said before that Christians girls were blackmailed/kidnapped/coerced to convert to Islam.

Regardless of if this story was true or not, the “Coptic problem” in Egypt is very serious. Some call it the ticking bomb of Egypt. Christians, especially those in the south, are increasingly feeling marginalized in the country and threatened from the rising fundamentalism of some Muslims. Numerous religious inspired violence erupted in Egypt especially in the 70s when the late president Sadat became extremely lax with Muslim extremists to fight his Communist and Nasserite (radical Arab nationalists from the Nasser era) opponents.

Tensions between Muslims and Christians is very minimum within the upper and middle class societies. They both live in relative harmony in Egypt’s major cities, however, the situation is not so in the poorer rural areas.

Ismak Eih?

If an Egyptian wants to know if someone is a Christian or Muslim, he usually asks for the name. Most of our names indicate whether we’re Muslim or Christian. Some names however are common and so you have to ask about the father’s name. If that too did not tell the faith, the grandpa’s name usually gives the answer! Ismak Eih? is the arabic for what's your name?





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