The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
15th of August, 2013

The Coptic Express

I have just created this mailing list, called The Coptic Express. I hope its description is sufficient; but just in case it is not, here is a related thing I wrote some hours ago.

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Every single time that the World witnesses a massacre or genocide, we all smite our breasts and chant in unison: “Never Again!” We did it with the Apartheid in South Africa, we did it with the Serbs, we did it with the Hutu in Rwanda, we did it with East Timor, and we do it every single time a genocide happens. Even so, the genocides continue unabated, and the choruses of “Never Again” follow in quick succession. It is almost as if we use one genocide to rehearse “Never Again” in time to deliver it melodiously when the next one happens.

These days, the World has more video cameras than cars, so we literally watch genocides unfold before our very eyes. The only thing that has changed between now and Rwanda ‘94 us that now we have less of an excuse when next we pretend that we are surprised at the mass-execution of innocent people.
It is evident, then, that all our cries of “Never Again”—especially these days—are merely self-righteous hypocrisy, since we now have the capacity to watch them start, run their course, and end. It is only after they have happened that we feign shock and horror, and then we pull out our well-rehearsed “Never Again”.

All of us, at present, are witness to an unfolding genocide, one that is not hidden from any of us, in this age of Twitter, Facebook, and Al-Jazeera. Therefore this time, we will have no excuse before God and man. I am talking about the treatment of the Christian minority in Egypt by their vastly more-numerous Muslim neighbours. It started with the rampant allegations that they controlled the Egyptian economy, and were therefore responsible for its collapse in the lead-up to the Arab Spring. If you catch a parallel between this and the allegations against the Jews in Hitler’s biography, Mein Kampf, you have seen one of my concerns. When the Arab Spring broke out, the Christian Copts stood side-by-side with the Muslims, and one of the iconic photos of that period was when a number of Christian youth formed a protective ring around Muslims during one of their prayers during their protests.

When Hosni Mubarak fell, this goodwill was forgotten, and attacks against Christians were immediate. Large numbers of Christians fled from Egypt, but since all the neighbouring countries are officially Muslim, they could not be refugees in the way that the Syrians, for instance, have been. Only the rich Christians could flee, because it required a plane ticket to do so. Those who are left behind have been besieged on all sides, since the only country they can be officially allowed in has become hostile to them. On 14th of August, when the sit-in protests were broken by the army, the reprisals all over Egypt targeted Christian churches and other establishments. Remember that these Egyptian Christians cannot escape, because they have no neighbouring country that is not hostile to Christians. Already, many have been killed.

Now the situation of the Egyptian Christians is particularly important in exposing our hyprocrisy, because we have known about their situation from the beginning, but none of the people with the power to do something have done anything.
Uganda is a majority Christian country, where Egyptian Christians would be reasonably welcome. Even when Uganda was declared a Muslim state by Idi Amin (in spite of being more than 90% Christian), the denomination to which the Egyptians belong—the Orthodox Christians—remained legal and functional. Therefore they can actually find temporary shelter in a country like Uganda, in the full assurance that even in the worst situation their rights will be protected. Alas, the same cannot be said of their home country.

To compound the charge of hypocrisy, we pretend to oppose Herod’s massacre of the innocents, but we ignore that Egypt is where Jesus’ family fled to when they were persecuted by Herod. Christianity was the majority religion in Egypt—boasting about 100% of the population—until the Arab jihads suppressed Christianity in that country some centuries later. Of all the recognised early Christians, the most-influential saints were all Egyptians, including the first popes. Indeed, the very first pope was based in Egypt; even before there was a pope in Rome. Christian Africa likes to celebrate its links to the achievements Ancient Egypt, but we seem to forget the greater achievement of Egypt, which is essentially the shaping of Christianity as we have it today. (The monasteries of Europe, for instance, were modeled on the ones established in the desert by Egyptians like St. Benedict.) It should also be noted that those Egyptians who are Christian are the original Egyptians who are our distant relatives, not the Arab invaders. You can see the features of people like former pope Shenouda and the current pope Tawodros; they have distinctly Hamitic artefacts, from skin colour to nose shape.

So we are going to stand aside and watch our brothers in blood and faith get massacred, and then line up to sing a self-righteous chorus of “Never Again.” I will not buy it, and of course neither will God.
Given the privileges afforded to diplomatic missions even in countries where Christians are persecuted, we could have long ago created a safe option for Egyptians who are persecuted. Certainly I and many other people in Uganda would be willing and able to help those who flee for their lives. Uganda is not necessarily a far-away destination for the refugees, since in fact we are the closest country to Egypt with a population that will not harass the Christians either for economic or social reasons.

I have no doubt that there will be a lot of Ugandans willing to help refugees—Uganda has this in its favour, that it has repeatedly been a safe and welcoming refuge for people from all four directions of our borders—and I have confidence that our government will somehow facilitate safe passage for those who need it, because this would not be the first time we do this. In the 1980s and 1990s, South African freedom-fighters found a welcoming home in Uganda, such that of all the countries that sang “Never Again”, only Uganda adorned words with actions. Let us not drop this chance to help where we can. Our Christians here know what it is like to be persecuted for their faith, so it is doubly inexcusable for us to ignore those who need our help.