Monday, February 28, 2011

Keeping Egyptian Christians in Line: Allahu Akbar vs. Kyrie Eleison

Egyptian troops shooting as they advance on the Monastery of St. Bishoy
Last week, an ancient Coptic Orthodox monastery sitting in the middle of an Egyptian desert was attacked by the Egyptian army. Two unarmed monks were shot, one wounded very seriously; six unarmed young Coptic workers who had been building a wall intended to protect the monastery and its occupants from the lawlessness of the January 25 uprising also were shot, one wounded very seriously.

The Egyptian army blamed the attack on the wall: it shouldn't be there, they maintained, and to support their case against the unarmed monks and workers, they brought in a bulldozer supported by five tanks, armored vehicles, and armed troops to knock it down. As the wall fell, the troops yelled "Allahu Akbar"; as they entered the monastery grounds, Coptic monks, who had been fleeing for their lives, stood and chanted, "Kyrie eleison," an ancient Greek prayer that translates to "Lord, have mercy." Some monks were arrested, and there are reports that the injured were not permitted to be transported to a hospital. The tanks, it should be noted, were paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

Egyptian soldiers stand over rubble created by tanks and bulldozers
The monastery in question, the Monastery of St. Bishoy, stands in the Ascetics (Scetes) Desert, named for the early Christian hermits and monks who lived there in stoic self-discipline. Hundreds of years before Islam was founded, this region was home to a number of hermit saints, the most famous of whom in the West was St. Augustine, the enormously influential author of City of God. On this soil, the first Christian monasteries were founded, and, on this ground, the Holy Family rested in their flight from a Roman slaughter of innocent babies into an Egypt far more welcoming of Christ than the Egypt of today.
Coptic icon of St. Bishoy (320-417 A.D.)

It is difficult for most Westerners to imagine the monks who venerate St. Bishoy as threats. St. Bishoy, who is known to the Coptic Orthodox faithful as the Star of the Desert, was a fourth-century hermit-monk whose virtues of simplicity, wisdom, self-denial, prayerfulness, and kindness attracted a group of Christian monks who gathered around him and considered him their spiritual father. Tradition holds that Christ appeared to the gentle monk more than once as a stranger to whom Bishoy offered aid. The monks at St. Bishoy have carried on their tradition for 1650 years and, to this day, St. Bishoy's remains are preserved in a chapel at the monastery.

Attacks on the monasteries of St. Macarios of Alexandria and of Saint Paul also have been reported, as well as the demolition of a Coptic church in Tahta. There are reports of torture of priests and monks who have been arrested. A Coptic Orthodox priest recently was stabbed to death by a group of thieves reportedly overheard to be repeating "Allahu Akbar."

It is easy for some Americans to imagine that such reports are inaccurate or that some other motivation besides antagonism toward Christianity by Muslims lies behind these attacks.

When considering those possibilities, it bears keeping in mind that, although 10% of Egypt's population is Christian, 80% of the people who emigrate from Egypt are Christian. That statistic does not argue well for tolerance of Christians in mostly Muslim Egypt.

Hat tip to Atlas Shrugs and Jihad Watch, where cell-phone video of the attack on the Monastery of St. Bishoy is posted.


  1. And some on the left wonder why someone like me could never trust ANY musloon!

  2. @Odie - I think to protect our own culture, we'll need to talk much more freely about the teachings and values of the religions that underpin our own legal system, literature, and scientific advances.

  3. These revolutions are not the sun shine and rainbows the media wants us to believe they are.

  4. @Trestin - These revolutions certainly point to the wisdom of the founders in understanding that, at best, a government can only be as good as the values of the people.