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Attack on Coptic Christians a wake-up call for the region

A man takes pictures of the destruction, debris and bloodstains on the walls inside the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, north of Cairo. AFP
A man takes pictures of the destruction, debris and bloodstains on the walls inside the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, north of Cairo. AFP

On May 26, masked gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying Copts to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya governorate in Egypt, killing 30 people and injuring 26. The attack was the latest in a series of violent incidents targeting the country’s Christian minority that makes up 10 per cent of the population.

Writing in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, Lebanese columnist Salem Nassar quoted Pope Tawadros II as saying that many of Egypt’s Christians have died for their beliefs, but that their strong faith in their country would never drive them to tear down the social fabric or to give in to the schemes that aim to turn Egypt into an Iraq.

Nassar saw in the Pope’s words a reminder of the fate at the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Christians of Iraq who have suffered systematic displacement and of the attempts of ethnic cleansing in a bid to start an internal riot.

“It is well-known that many terrorist groups were created after Muammar Qaddafi was killed and his followers fled.

“Training camps were built in Derna and its surroundings in a bid to carry out attacks that would create confusion inside Egypt,” he wrote.

Therefore, he added, the Egyptian armed forces had to carry out a cross-border operation to destroy these camps that were set up in Libya to shatter the national security and stability of Egypt.

But according to military observers in Cairo, these external terrorist attacks can only attain their objective as long as they are backed from the inside.

“The coordination between ISIL on the outside and the Muslim Brotherhood from the inside constitutes the link between the two fronts brought together by their opposition to the existing regime."

The writer said that the deployment of Egyptian forces along the western borders with Libya and Sudan was not enough.

“Such a measure necessarily requires cooperation with Libya’s national army to purge the western border and ensure a safe region free of any infiltrations,” he wrote.

Writing in the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, Egyptian columnist Emile Ameen noted that Egypt’s national unity had remained immune to external attacks.

In a statement released after the attack, the Coptic Church said: “Such violence and evil targets our very heart and national unity that we prize the most and which we safeguard.

“Moreover, Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s message following the attack brought relief to his people,” Ameen said.

Egypt’s officials, popular movements and elites have all agreed that silence would not help and that their country was more than capable of punishing anyone wanting to harm Egypt.

The writer said that Egypt’s air strikes against terrorist bases were in line with international charters, whereas Article 51 of the United Nations Charter stipulates that nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a UN member.

However, he wondered whether the events in Libyan territories represent a threat only to Egypt’s national security or to the rest of the world.

“A few days ago, the French newspaper Le Figaro called Africa a new target for ISIL. Such a statement underscores the fierce struggle among terrorist groups in east and west Libya, which they consider as an exit to north-west Africa and to the centre of the African continent.

“Sadly, Africa is all set to receive such groups, thanks to growing poverty, unemployment and sectarian issues, not to mention the economic and political marginalisation. The likes of Boko Haram are the best example of African incubators that threaten world peace,” he wrote.

The writer added that the attacks against Egypt’s Copts should serve as a warning to all the people in the region.

Ameen concluded that terrorism is based on moral dismantlement and trappings that turn states into political, ethnic and religious rival groups, hence the dire need to implement the Riyadh declaration, particularly with respect to fighting terrorism on the ground.

* Jennifer Attieh

Published: June 5, 2017 04:00 AM

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