In the 1990s, when ;Egypt faced a crisis because Islamist terrorists were targeting tourists, the government cracked down hard on the “militants.” This weekend, a new bloody chapter in Egypt’s ;terror-problem may have begun but this time the government’s response is not as predictable. On New Year’s Day, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing two dozen Coptic Christians ;as they gathered for a midnight mass. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak immediately blamed “foreign hands” for the brutal attack but ;neither al Qaeda nor any other foreign terror organization have claimed responsibility. And meanwhile, this is ;isn’t the first attack on ;the religious minority in Egypt which makes up 10 percent of the population. Indeed, threats against Copts are more common than the government would like to admit. “When there was a threat from al Qaeda a month or a month and a half ago, did the government have to wait till the disaster happens before they protect us?” said Nader Shenouda at the church the next day.
As ;the US Commission on International Religious freedom reported in March, too often violence against Christians in Egypt is ignored. “The acquittal of four Muslim men for the murder of a Coptic Christian man in the Upper Egypt town of Dairout is the latest example in a growing pattern of instances where individuals have not been brought to justice after committing violent acts against Christians and their property,” the ;USCIRF declared. ;
As we watch Egypt’s response, will the Obama administration simlarly keep its focus on ;our ally’s response to the massacre? ;If not, there are Coptic Christians here in the US who want to hold our government’s feet to the fire. “Talk is cheap. What we need is action,” said Mike Azer, an organizer of a demostration in Los Angeles in response to the bombing. ;”We need to get a message to our federal government, to our State Department, that they need to pressure the Egyptian government to stop this violence and stop the terrorists. All we are asking for is equality and safety in Egypt.”
By Abby Wisse Schachter