A savage Islamist war has been waged against the Copts ever since they took to the streets on 30 June hand in hand with their fellow Egyptian Muslims to sound their rejection of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led rule and demand its overthrow. As though Copts were not a basic ingredient of the Egyptian community nor entitled to being part of the political struggle which governs it; they were singled out for Islamist revenge.
Yet the truth is that ever since 25 January 2011, the Copts have been part and parcel of the revolution. They participated with all their might, not as a specific faction, sect or group distinguished from mainstream Egyptians; but as one with the torrential masses that fused into the revolutionary current. How then could the MB have imagined that the Copts should have isolated themselves from the mainstream, and have penalised them for not doing so?
The Coptic stance was not a show of support to the revolutionists against the MB; it was an act of spontaneous cohesion with other Egyptians to prise Egypt from the hands of the Islamists who were wreaking havoc with the country’s legendary pluralism and moderation. It was the all-Egyptian identity, not any religious one, which gained the upper hand at the end of the day.
But the Islamist MB terrorists believed the Copts should be penalised for that. They savagely attacked their churches, homes, fields, businesses and schools, held them hostages, and behaved as though the Copts were fair game.
It is true that Egyptians in their entirety suffered at the hands of the terrorists but, as always, it was the Copts who came in for the heaviest fire. It appeared to be their destiny to suffer on two counts: on account of being both Egyptian and Christian. The tally of the damages inflicted on the Copts by the terrorist Islamists since 30 June, and especially following the breakup of the Islamist MB sit-ins in Cairo on 14 August, proves that the attacks came at a hefty human and material cost.
Despite the horror inflicted upon them and the painful losses they incurred, the Copts never abandoned the national ranks nor were they tempted into crying for help from outside Egypt—as the MB did. That is something the Copts never did and will never do. They did not so much as remonstrate against the villainous outburst of evil that went about looting, burning, and ruining all that mattered to them. Later, armed by a profound faith and complete resignation, they resumed their prayers and services among the ruins of their churches—even holding weddings and baptisms there. They realised that the ‘church’ was inside them, and were confident of the Lord’s supreme support, and that the day will come when the ruined churches will be rebuilt by the hands of Egyptians, Muslim and Christian.
I confidently and proudly note that the 30 June experience and its 26 July and 14 August aftermath have unleashed a unique solidarity among Egyptians. It will go down in history as a hallmark of national unity, just as the 1919 national Revolution, the 1967 crisis, the 1973 victory and the 25 January Revolution, when Egyptians fused into one national identity, united by common challenges, dreams and national project.
A pressing obligation, however, remains. It is impossible to turn our backs to the fact that the victims of the horrendous Islamist terrorism are in need of urgent compensation in order to restart their lives and livelihoods. I do not mean the churches, because the State has clearly committed itself to rebuild all those that were ruined, and has already embarked on that project. But I mean the Copts who lost family provider, home, or source of income.
Watani was never oblivious to that need, but has been working to compile accurate lists and data of the victims and losses. And true to what has become a Watani tradition in case of such calamities, we are today launching a donation fund for the benefit of the victims. We are printing a tally of the losses, and will in time publish all the contributions made to this fund. The urgent aid, and the final compensations that will be handed out to the victims, pending the urgency of their need, will also be promptly announced.
I know that the Copts are paying an extra price for the Egyptian revolution, but I also know that they do this willingly as Egyptians first, Coptic second.
22 September 2013