Voices from Russia

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Growing Number of Muslims Accept Christianity in Egypt

00i Islamabad PAKISTAN Coptic Orthodox


The website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem posted that life for Christians in Egypt improved after the 2013 military coup against the régime of President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, the number of cases of conversion from Islam to Christianity has increased. The report noted that the exact number of cases of conversion to Christianity by Egyptian Muslims is difficult to determine, since those who accept baptism often don’t advertise their change of religion. In Egypt, Muslims who become Christians may still be victims of persecution or even killed if their former co-religionists learn of their baptism. Sedmitsa.ru posted that a recent convert to Christianity from Islam (who preferred to remain anonymous) told the Latin Patriarchate, “The government doesn’t oppress us, it comes from our families. If a Muslim accepts baptism, his family and neighbours can beat him or even kill him, as they perceive it as a betrayal of Islam”. In Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, which fell out of communion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches following the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, currently numbers nine million believers. The Coptic Catholic Church in union with the Catholic Church of Rome has about 162,000 adherents.

8 August 2014




Sunday, 8 September 2013

Egypt’s Largest Christian Community Threatened as Islamists Take Over Town

00 Dalga EGYPT. looted Coptic Church. 08.09.13


Editor’s Foreword:

THIS is what the Islamists wish to do in Syria. THIS is why we shouldn’t intervene in their civil war. Don’t we have enough blood on our hands, already?



The Coptic Orthodox priest would only talk to his visitor after hiding from the watchful eyes of the bearded Muslim outside, who sported a pistol bulging from under his robe. Therefore, Fr Yoannis moved behind a wall in the charred skeleton of an ancient monastery to describe how Islamists torched it and then looted it when they took over this southern Egyptian town following the ouster of the country’s president. Fr Yoannis told us, “The fire in the monastery burned intermittently for three days. The looting continued for a week. At the end, not a wire or an electric switch was left”. The looters stripped the monastery’s 1,600-year-old underground chapel of ancient icons, and they dug up the grounds as they believed that there was buried treasure. Fr Yoannis said, “Even the remains of ancient and revered saints were disturbed and thrown around”.

A town of some 120,000… including 20,000 ChristiansDalga has been outside government control since hard-line supporters of the Islamist Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyat drove out police and occupied their station on 3 July, the day that the Egyptian military removed the president in a popularly-supported coup. It was part of a wave of attacks in southern Minya Governorate targeting Christians, their homes, and their businesses. Since then, the radicals imposed their grip on Dalga, twice driving off attempts by the army to send in APCs by showering them with gunfire. Their hold points to the power of hard-line Islamists in southern Egypt, even after Morsi’s removal… and their determination to defy the military-backed leadership that’s replaced him. With the army and police already fighting a burgeoning militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, there are growing signs that a second insurgency could erupt in the south… particularly in Minya and Asyut Governorates, both Islamist strongholds and both home to Egypt’s two largest Christian communities.

The takeover of Dalga was disastrous for the Christian community in the town, located 270 kilometers (160 miles) south of Cairo in Minya Governorate, on the edge of the Nile Valley near the cliffs that mark the start of the desert. In the initial burst of violence, the insurgents ransacked and set ablaze the town’s only Catholic church, like the Monastery of the Virgin Mary and St Abraam, and they looted the Anglican church. Since then, Fr Yoannis said that some 40 Christian families fled Dalga. According to local Minya activists, Islamists attacked nearly 40 Christian-owned homes and stores. Bandits from the nearby deserts joined the looting and burning. To ensure the spread of fear, the attackers torched houses in all Christian neighbourhoods, not just one or two. Amongst the homes torched was that of Fr Angelos, an 80-year-old Orthodox priest who lives close to the monastery. His Muslim neighbours spared Fr Yoannis’ home from a similar fate. The rebels dragged down and killed a 60-year-old Christian who fired from his roof to ward off a mob. Fr Yoannis said, “Even if we had firearms, we’d be reluctant to use them. We can’t take a life. Firing in the air may be our limit”.

Those who remain pay armed Muslim neighbours to protect them. Fr Yoannis said that his brother paid with a cow and a water buffalo. For weeks, most Christian businesses remain closed. One can see armed men in the streets, and nearly every day Islamists hold rallies at a stage outside the police station, demanding Morsi’s reinstatement. Most Christians remain indoors as much as possible, particularly during the rallies. They say they’re routinely insulted on the streets by Muslims, including children. Christian women stay home at all times, fearing harassment by the Islamists, according to multiple Christians who spoke to the AP. Most requested that we not publish their names for fear of reprisals. Local rights activist Ezzat Ibrahim said, “The Copts in Dalga live in utter humiliation. They live in horror and can’t lead normal lives”.

None of the town’s churches held services for a month, until Wednesday, when Christians held one in one of the monastery’s two churches. About 25 attended, down from the usual 500 or more. Fr Yoannis said of the hard-liners now running Dalga, “They don’t want to see any Christian with any power, no matter how modest. They only want to see us poor without money, without a trade or a business to be proud of”. Like other Christians in town, he said that police and the authorities were helpless to intervene, noting, “Everyone keeps telling me that I should alert the police and the army, as if I hadn’t done that already”. At intervals, the 33-year-old father of three would stop talking, move carefully to the edge of a wall, and stick his head out to check if someone was coming. His big worry was the bearded Muslim at the gate, Saber Sarhan Askar. Dalga’s Christians say that Askar, skinny with hawk-like hazelnut eyes, took part in torching and looting the monastery. Outside the monastery that day, Askar told priests that he was there to protect it. However, the orders he yelled to other priests left no doubt who was in charge. He barked at one priest, “Bring us tea!” soon after, he screamed at another, “I need something cold to drink!”

A day after the Islamists took over, school teacher and part-time entrepreneur Kromer Ishaq fled Dalga. Already, the Islamists accused his father in a family blood feud… a charge that could prompt the killing of Ishaq. Then, on the night of the takeover, someone broke into and looted Ishaq’s gold shop. The son of a wealthy family, Ishaq fled with his extended family all the way to the Nile Delta north of Cairo, where he’s now looking for work. By telephone, Ishaq said, “I used to employ people, and, now, I’m looking for work. I once lived in a house I owned, and, now, I live in a rented apartment. You ask me what life is like? It’s like black tar”.

Dalga is the most radical example of Islamist power in Minya… no other town is under such extreme lockdown. However, in general, the province saw a surge in Islamist violence since the coup against Morsi. In the province, Islamists attacked 35 churches, including 19 completely gutted by fire. They destroyed at least six Christian schools and five orphanages, along with five courthouses, seven police stations, and six city council buildings. In addition, they looted and ransacked a museum in the city of Mallawi. On 11 August, policemen thought to be loyal to Morsi stormed the provincial police headquarters in Minya city. They dragged out the province’s security chief and his top aide from their offices and ordered them both to leave the province. They did.

Minya was the epicentre of Islamic militant insurgency against the rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in the 1980s and 90s. It remains a stronghold of Islamism, including the extremist al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya  group. It also has the largest Christian community of Egypt’s 29 provinces, 35 percent of Minya’s 4 million people, compared to around 10 percent nationwide. Over Egypt’s past 2½ years of turmoil, Islamist strength grew. Hundreds of jailed radicals who purportedly forswore violence… though not their hard-line ideology… were freed after Mubarak’s 2011 fall and given the freedom to recruit. The south saw a flood of heavy weapons smuggled across the desert from neighbouring Libya. A top Interior Ministry official in Cairo said the Minya police suffered large-scale infiltration by pro-Morsi Islamists. Today, the Ministry’s investigating the local force. The official spoke to us anonymously, as the probe was still underway. On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry replaced the Minya security chief who fled the province, as well as two top aides, for what it called failure to maintain law and order. In the security vacuum, Christians largely paid the price.

Christian businessman Talaat Bassili recounted how, on 15 August, dozens of men, some armed, stormed his home in Mallawi, not far from Dalga. For three hours, with no police or army in sight, the attackers made off with TV sets, washing machines, mobile phones, jewellery, and cash. The attackers descended on the house from scaffoldings on a mosque next door. In footage from Bassili’s security camera, men in robes and boys in sandals tried to force their way into the house, then, finally, blasted away the lock with Kalashnikov assault rifles. Some loaded their loot into a donkey cart. Later, the footage shows Bassili, his wife Nahed Samaan… in a nightgown and robe… and son Fady leaving to take refuge with a neighbour. A week later, Bassili said that a man called him on his mobile phone to ask whether he wanted to buy some of his stuff back, saying, “I said no”.

6 September 2013

Hamza Hendawi

 Associated Press

As quoted in NBC News



Thursday, 11 July 2013

Does Being a Rubbish President Invalidate Democracy?

00 Egypt. Coup 2013. Anti-Morsi. 07.07.13


I haven’t smoked enough crack in my life to believe that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is a force for good in this world. Call me crazy, but I just can’t get down with that whole Jew/gay/woman/Christian/etc-oppressing vibe. Unlike the Brothers, I like the separation of religion and politics… I think that it’s one of the great ideas of Western civilisation. Even so, I felt a bit sorry for Mohamed Morsi last week, as he suddenly discovered, much to his surprise, that he wasn’t only an ex-president, but under arrest. I understand why the army locked him up… it’d be very dangerous to have the rightfully-elected President of Egypt running around, denouncing their coup. Nevertheless, try as I might, I couldn’t think of anything he’d done wrong… other than being a rubbish president, of course. Yet, that isn’t a crime.

There was always something hapless about Morsi. He wasn’t even the Brotherhood’s first choice, but rather a back-up president they wheeled out when their favoured candidate was disqualified from running for election. Once he was in power, he ruled like a back-up president, ham-fisted and stupid, doing all the usual authoritarian things… putting comedians on trial and banging on about ideology when millions of his people had no money, no work, and little food. Morsi didn’t seem to grasp that money matters, and that Egypt gets much of its cash from infidels coming over to lie half-naked on beaches, ride camels, and stare at triangular piles of bricks containing dead people. He was so oblivious… or indifferent… to this fact that, last month, he appointed a member of the political arm of a terrorist group responsible for the murder of 58 tourists in the popular tourist destination of Luxor in 1997 as governor… of Luxor. This was political incompetence as performance art.

It was obvious, then, that neither Morsi nor his advisors in the Brotherhood were very wise. Their goal was to Islamise Egypt, but they were going about it entirely the wrong way. They’d read too much Sayyid Qutb, and not enough Lenin. The Bolsheviks didn’t leap to collectivism overnight; they lied, obfuscated, and advanced gradually. Lenin even allowed limited capitalism for a few years; he knew that if you boil a frog slowly enough, it wouldn’t jump out of the water. The Brothers, they just blundered about, pushing for a massive cultural revolution overnight, but without the requisite willingness to butcher their opponents and terrify the masses into submission. Indeed, it was almost as if… as if they really meant to give this democracy thing a go, as if Morsi really did believe that the most important qualification in a governor was his devotion to God, and, after that, the rest would take care of itself.

Meanwhile, his supporters are justifiably appalled… the Brotherhood won the vote honestly, and, now, men with tanks cancelled the results. Morsi really was a duffer, but so was Jimmy Carter, so was Britain’s Gordon Brown, and they were only ever overthrown at the ballot box. That’s how you do it in a democracy. Of course, the USA under Carter and the UK under Brown weren’t tumbling into the abyss as Egypt is today, so, the comparison’s moot. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, but there’s no saying that these particular extraordinary measures will fix Egypt’s problems. The army’s already talking about holding new elections soon, but what if a sadist wins next time instead of an incompetent? On the other hand, what if he’s a raving lunatic? Germany was a democracy, yet, the Nazis came to power.

When I was a student, I’d get angry when I read economists argue that some countries aren’t ready for democracy. They were usually talking about China. The simple fairness of allowing people to choose their own leaders was self-evident to me. Twenty years later, and increasingly uncertain about many things I used to know for sure, I see their point. After all, it’s not as if democracy appeared in Europe overnight. It emerged over a couple of thousand years, mixed up with lots of other good ideas such as freedom of speech, the separation of church and state, the rights of man, etc. Therefore, I wonder if extracting one of these ideas and inserting it suddenly into a radically different context is really all that clever. I mean, Egypt is about 5,000 years old, and until last June the country never had a freely-elected leader. Maybe, it would’ve been good to think and plan a bit first, rather than rush into a vote when the only functioning organisations in the impoverished country were the army and a few groups of radical beardy types.

I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. Nevertheless, although he was clearly wrong about many things, I still can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Morsi. He played the game, he tried his best; he just wasn’t any good… we’ve all been there. However, very few of us wound up under house arrest as a result.

10 July 2013

Daniel Kalder



Sunday, 7 July 2013

Putin sez Egypt on Verge of Civil War

00 Egypt. Coup 2013. Anti-Morsi. 07.07.13


On Sunday, President Vladimir Putin said that Egypt is on the verge of a civil war, as tensions continued to escalate in the North African country between the supporters and opponents of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyat. During a working visit to Kazakhstan, Putin said, “Syria’s already engulfed in a civil war; no matter how sad it may sound, Egypt’s also moving in the same direction. It’d be good if the Egyptian people avoided this fate”. On Wednesday, the Egyptian armed forces deposed Morsi and suspended the country’s constitution, Egyptian Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in a televised address to the nation. He said that the head of Egypt’s Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, would be interim president during a transition period until there’s an early presidential election. Reportedly, since Morsi’s ouster from power, clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents across the country killed dozens and injured hundreds more.

7 July 2013




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