Who are you? What do you believe in? And what do you stand for? In America we are never faced with such inquiries nor do we have to worry about them. However in countries throughout the Middle East one’s own life depends on the answer to these very questions. Especially in the lives of the Christian minorities who are discriminated against and persecuted all in the name of their religion.
Today, the largest single Christian minority in the Middle East exists in Egypt making up approximately 10 percent of the population, about 8 million Christians. However, these figures have been recently declining at a fast pace. Since the 2011 uprising the removal of Hosni Mubarak from presidency to the replacement of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.
This period marked the pivotal turning point not only for Egyptian politics, but for society at large. Morsi, in the short time he was president, drafted an Islamic-backed constitution along with an appointment of a Muslim government. This of course exacerbated many of the issues for the Copts who were even more so neglected, abused, and widely discriminated against. Although Morsi has been ousted as of July 2013 his disposition still remains throughout Egyptian society.
In August it has been reported that up to 70 churches have been burnt or looted and since then death tolls are continuing to rise. Recently, a wedding massacre took place resulting in four deaths including an 8-year-old, and 19 people injured. Along with no one claiming responsibility for the attack. The Government responded by saying they will find and punish the killers. However, many in the community do not have much confidence or trust judging from past crimes against the church that were neglected or acquitted.
Why is this happening? In an interview with Egyptian Christian activist, Adofo Girgis (not real name) describes his life growing up in Cairo and stories of the hardships facing many Christians to this day.
“From childhood we are taught that Islam is the only right religion…the religion teach them that everyone else is an infidel and they want to spread fear among the infidels,” he said.
With this mindset instilled in many Muslims today, it is clear the message they have sent towards Christians and many other minority groups in the region. One of the most shocking of the stories that Girgis has shared, was of his Christian cousin who was kidnapped at school to be forced into marriage with an older Muslim man. He hasn’t heard from his cousin since. Though if she were to go to the police or escape she would be thrown into jail or beaten. Apparently these kidnappings happen very often with young Christian women in order to secure control in the majority Muslim region. However, from decades on out Christians have still remained strong and continue to work toward a system where discrimination and persecution is accounted for.
As of now, Egyptian Christians are frustrated with the process of creating a more moderate constitution. They believe that no progress can be made as long as there is a minority radical group on the panel. The Copts fight for the demand of a quota not only for themselves, but for other religious and ethnic minorities throughout the region. Only time will tell whether the law and the implementation will strictly protect minorities from discrimination.
Why should Americans care? Now think of the answer to my first question. Who are you? Can you imagine that answer being taken away from you? Can you imagine a world where you are ostracized from family and friends, even beaten and abused just for standing up for what you believe in? The American people have a heart and whether you are Atheist, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion just recognize that these are still people. People that want nothing more than to have equality, peace and a voice.
So the question still remains — who are you? And what will you stand for?
Schumacher is a sophomore majoring in business marketing and human rights.