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  • David Carlson

473 "the spirit of human fraternity and respect for diversity among all people across the globe."

Day 473 Friday July 2nd, 2021

In Egypt, Coptic Christians help Muslims celebrate Feast of SacrificeThey financially aid poor Muslims to buy the ritual animal to take part in the Eid al-Adha sacrifice July 21

(A Coptic priest distributes holy communion)

Coptic Christians in Egypt are reaching out to help Muslims by purchasing bonds issued by the ministry of religious affairs for the occasion of the "Feast of Sacrifice".

Egyptian media outlets reported that in the province of Minya, 245 km south of the capital Cairo, four parishes purchased "sacrificial bonds" from the local unit of the ministry of religious affairs, costing 26,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,659).

The Coptic Orthodox parish of the Virgin Mary opted for bond subscriptions in Abu Kabir, in the Governorate of Sharkia, the third most populous place in the country, as did also a Coptic Catholic parish on the Red Sea.

The ministry gives financial aid to allow Muslim families who cannot afford to buy the ritual animal (usually a bovine, a sheep or a goat) to take part in the Eid al-Adha sacrifice.

Muslims on July 21 will celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice. The festival commemorates the story of Prophet Abraham, revered also by Christians and Jews, who was willing to sacrifice his only son at God's command. Scripture says that God did so to test Abraham. When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was stopped by an angel. Then he saw in a thicket a ram caught by its horns and sacrificed it instead of his son.

For Muslims, this is one of two major festivals and times when they will reflect on the meaning of sacrifice and devotion, pray and together with family and friends thank God for blessings received.

Though the official rhetoric toward Christians in Egypt has changed under current ruler Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, they still endure discrimination, sectarian violence, and terrorist attacks. The government has lifted curbs regarding building new churches, which Christians have been awaiting for a long time. It has initiated a "Egyptian Family Home" initiative — a cultural communications campaign to foster religious tolerance.

The government has also started the "Customary Councils" to settle disputes between individuals in rural areas. Egypt now supports a national project that promotes the journey of the Holy Family from historical Palestine throughout Egypt. In 2017, Pope Francis declared the journey as an official Christian pilgrimage.

There is no official discrimination but prejudices remain.

There are many instances of discrimination, communal violence and hate crimes against the largest Christian community in the Arab world who make up 10 percent of the mostly Muslim 82 million population in Egypt. Christian women have particularly faced hate crimes on many occasions. On April 3, a Coptic Christian woman and her 6-year-old son were murdered by a Muslim cab driver. A heartbreaking video of her 4-year-old daughter, who witnessed the gruesome incident, went viral on social media.

In January 2020, Catherine Ramzi, a Coptic Christian mother of four daughters, had a narrow escape when a Muslim man tried to kill her for not wearing a veil.

Last December, the court set free the assailants who attacked and dragged, a 74-year-old Coptic Christian woman. The acquittal of three defendants, including a father and his two sons by the Minya Governorate criminal court was criticized by Christians and rights groups. On December 10, in the al-Wardian district of Alexandria, three brothers from a Muslim family attacked Coptic shops near St. Damiana Church, killing a 47-year-old Christian, and injuring two others seriously.

The remnants of the erstwhile Islamic State are also active in the country's remote areas. In April they recently released a video of the execution of Nabil Habashy Salama, a 62-year-old Christian man in Bir Al Abd, a city in North Sinai. Habashy was abducted in November 2020. A businessman, Habashy was active in the Christian community and helped build the city's church, St. Mary. In a statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church called Habashy "a faithful son and servant" who "adhered to his religion until death. " Pope Francis, who visited Egypt in April 2017, released a video in February, praying for 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by the ISIS fundamentalists in Libya in 2015."They are our saints, saints of all Christians, saints of all Christian denominations and traditions," the pope said.

On February 4, 2019, Pope Francis signed the human fraternity document with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque and University.

The pact celebrates "the spirit of human fraternity and respect for diversity among all people across the globe. "

According to tradition, there have been Christians in Egypt as early as 42 AD, before St Peter and St Paul were martyred in Rome (c. 64-67 AD).Both the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria led Pope Tawadros II, and the Coptic Catholic Church, headed by Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, trace their origins to Saint Mark the evangelist.

Read more at:

Who are the Copts?

Coptic Christians trace their founding to the apostle St. Mark. Tradition holds that Mark brought Christianity to Egypt and founded the Coptic church during the first century. It is one of the oldest Christian churches in the Middle East and was the first founded in Africa.

They comprise the largest Christian community in the Middle East. In Egypt, Coptic Christians make up the majority of the country’s roughly 9 million Christians. There are some 12 million members worldwide, according to the World Council of Churches.

Copts have their own pope. The head of the Coptic Church is the Pope of Alexandria, a position that is now based in Cairo. The current leader is Pope Tawadros II, a trained pharmacist who studied theology and was ordained a priest and later a bishop. His papacy began in 2012.

Coptic Christians have experienced persecution for centuries. Since the time of their split from the rest of the Christian community in the 5th Century up through modern times, Coptic Christians have been the targets of violence and aggression. They experienced persecution through shifting power structures in the Middle East, particularly under the Byzantine Empire and after the Arab conquest in the seventh century. There were long periods of peace, too, but these were invariably followed by eras of discrimination and oppression.

Coptic Christians continue to face persecution. Conditions for Copts in Egypt have worsened in recent decades following a series of Middle East wars. Millions of Copts have left Egypt due to rising religious tensions. Copts face restrictions on inter-religious marriage and on converting Muslims to Christianity, and activists hold that discrimination also keeps them from attaining positions of high office.

Grace Note

A Note from a Sister:

The US Catholic church is in danger of becoming a one-issue church—abortion. Clearly abortion is a complex moral issue, but it is not the only life issue. Will the bishops withhold the Eucharist from those public official behind the other life issues, such as capital punishment, possession of nuclear weapons, ownership of dangerous guns, the devastating and deadly effects of poverty and racism?

I suggest the bishops reread Cardinal Bernardin’s book, Consistent Ethic of Life, and rethink serious punishment for only one life issue. As a Catholic and a theologian, I am appalled and embarrassed by the move to weaponize the Eucharist.

Marie Egan, IHM, S.T.D.

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