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Coptic Christians in Egypt may be nostalgic for Hosni Mubarak

October 11, 2011 | 10:45 am

Egyptian Coptic Christians rally in Cairo on Monday to protest the death of other Copts in clashes with the military the day before. Credit: Mohamed Omar / European Pressphoto Agency

Seventeen years ago, on a visit to an Egyptian church, I was surprised to see a portrait of President Hosni Mubarak in the vestibule. I was told that Christians regarded the strongman as a protector. Shortly before our visit there had been attacks on Christian churches in southern Egypt and we heard tales of officially sanctioned discrimination from Copts, but the thinking was that things would be much worse for Christians without Mubarak.

I was reminded of that visit by the recent violence against Copts and the denunciation by Christians of the supposedly transitional military government. It seems the "Arab Spring" may not be good for Christians. Iraqi Christians, many of whom have fled the country, may feel the same way about the post-liberation political environment. I have always wondered if Pope John Paul II's misgivings about the U.S. invasion of Iraq reflected not just an abhorrence of violence but also a fear that Chaldean Catholics and other Christians would be harmed in the aftermath of by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

The plight of Christians in the Middle East is, writ small, the problem with democratic revolts in that region: Democracy does not guarantee tolerance, political pluralism or freedom of religion.

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— Michael McGough

Photo: Egyptian Coptic Christians rally in Cairo on Monday to protest the death of other Copts in clashes with the military the day before. Credit: Mohamed Omar / European Pressphoto Agency

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