The violence is part of a region-wide attack on Christians by fundamentalist Muslims:
These scenes of destruction and murder have been repeated all over the Middle East. Whatever one can say about tyrants like Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak, they feared the Islamists and kept them from causing the kind of mayhem that is afflicting Christian populations across the region. And the destruction of churches and murders of Christians are not isolated incidents. There has been a systematic targeting of Christians in Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, as well as Egypt. The attacks are inspired by extremist clerics, and condoned to one degree or another by authorities.
Despite Christians living and worshiping in the Middle East for 2,000 years, those communities are now in danger of disappearing. A report by the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights reveals that 100,000 Christians have fled Egypt since March, with 250,000 expected to leave before the end of 2011. In Iraq, it’s even worse. A State Department report last year on religious freedom around the world showed that 50% of Iraqi Christians had left the country since the US invasion. And in Sudan, tens of thousands of Christians in the Nuba Mountains are being bombed daily by Sudanese military forces and suffer house to house raids at the hands of President Bashir’s forces.
One is forced to confront an uncomfortable reality: if any other minority group – racial, ethnic, or tribal – was suffering from government-condoned persecution carried out by out of control mobs, the outrage in the Western press and from Western governments would be loud and sustained. So why don’t Christians in the Middle East rate that kind of concern?
In Egypt, where perpetrators are rarely arrested and never punished, the mourning continues:
The violence Sunday night, which left 26 dead and about 500 injured, began when thousands of Coptic Christians marched to the state television building to stage a sit-in over a recent attack on a church. As they marched, state television called on civilians to “protect” the army, casting the Christians as a mob seeking to undermine national unity.
Witnesses among the protesters said the march started out peaceful but turned violent when the Christians were attacked by civilians wielding sticks, throwing stones and firing birdshot. What happened next is not fully clear. But a video circulating widely shows at least two military vehicle plowing through crowds of Christian protesters at high speed and running some of them over.
Rights activists and witnesses also say soldiers fired directly at protesters. State television claimed protesters had attacked soldiers. Clashes then broke out between Muslims backing riot police and soldiers on one side, and Christians and some Muslims on the other side. Forensic reports showed many of the deaths were caused by armored vehicles that ran down protesters, or by gunshots.
In the shadow of the birthplace of their faith, Christians are being hounded and persecuted.