News / USA

    Egyptian-American Coptic Christmas Marred by Concerns about Christians Back Home

    Father Bishoy Andrawes leads a Christmas celebration at the St. Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia on January 6, 2013. (Mohamed Elshinnawi)
    Father Bishoy Andrawes leads a Christmas celebration at the St. Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia on January 6, 2013. (Mohamed Elshinnawi)
    Mohamed Elshinnawi
    Egyptian-American Copts are celebrating their Christmas with mixed feelings this year. Worshipers at the Saint Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia say their holiday joy has been muted by concerns about the future of fellow Copts in Egypt, where Islamists are tightening their hold on the government.
     
    “[The] safety of Copts is still a concern because every now and then we hear about a church being [set] on fire,” said Father Bishoy Andrawes, the senior priest at St. Mark. “The other concern is the future of Egypt in general and the religious freedom in particular.”
     
    Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, the largest Christian minority in any Middle Eastern nation.
     
    Two years ago, they celebrated Christmas under heightened security after the bombing of their church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
     
    This year, Copts in Egypt are even more concerned about the future of their religion and its followers because of critical statements made by some Islamist preachers.
     
    According to Father Andrawes, the events in Egypt are already having a direct impact on his church and congregation in northern Virginia.
     
    “We see a lot of Copts coming from Egypt lately, leaving behind their businesses, factories with hundreds of jobs, tourism projects fearing a bleak future,” he said.

    The theocracy threat

    Amal Mankaryos, a St. Mark member, said at a Christmas service on Sunday that some Salafi Islamists had called on Muslims not to greet Christians on their Christmas.
     
    “Muslims used to share with us our holidays and back us in our calamities,” Mankaryos said, adding, “Now what happened?”

    Egyptian-American Copts in celebrate Christmas at the St. Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 6, 2013. (Mohamed Elshinnawi)Egyptian-American Copts in celebrate Christmas at the St. Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 6, 2013. (Mohamed Elshinnawi)
    x
    Egyptian-American Copts in celebrate Christmas at the St. Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 6, 2013. (Mohamed Elshinnawi)
    Egyptian-American Copts in celebrate Christmas at the St. Mark Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 6, 2013. (Mohamed Elshinnawi)
    Before and after the church service in Fairfax, parishioners discussed Egypt’s new constitution, which they worried could open the way for establishing an official Islamist state.
     
    According to the new constitution, all laws passed by the parliament have to be compatible with Islam as understood by the four main schools of Sunni Islam.
     
    Before the constitution was completed, the General Council for the Coptic Orthodox Church and representatives of other churches decided to withdraw from the drafting committee.
     
    Nader Tadros, a supporter of one of the opposition parties in Egypt, said these  developments are bad news for the country's Copts.
     
    “That heavy interpretation of religious teachings would mean that [I] as a Christian would not be able to participate fully in setting rules and regulations, and I would be excluded from the process right from the beginning,” said Tadros.
     
    Father Andrawes expressed similar concern.
     
    “The new constitution was designed for the majority, while a good and fair constitution should protect both majority and minorities,” he said. “A constitution drafted by a majority of Islamists, coupled with a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, is missing the balance of power, checks and balances that keep democracy in place. But the concentration of power is taking Egypt back to the past mistakes with just a different scenario.”
     
    Michael Abdelmaseeh, another member of the Orthodox Coptic church in Fairfax, said the concentration of power among Islamists is bad not only for Copts, but also for Muslims in Egypt.
     
    “Copts and their fellow Muslim citizens wanted a constitution for all Egyptians that would not change the identity of the pluralistic society,” he said. “Christians are looking for a future free of discrimination not as second-class citizens.”

    Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically-elected president since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, says the new constitution guarantees equal rights for all. After taking office last year, Morsi said he would not turn the country into an Islamic Republic. 
     
    Show of support
     
    Despite the pressures Copts are facing in Egypt, there are signs of solidarity. 

    Tadros said the latest effort to marginalize the Copts had backfired.
     
    “It was refreshing that Egyptians felt that this kind of call was nonsense,” Tadros said at the St. Mark service. “So we received more congratulations on our Christmas as a show of solidarity and to reiterate our national unity.”

    Father Andrawes added that he and other Egyptian-American Copts have received many messages of support over the holidays, “showing the tolerant nature of real Muslims.”
     
    Sirag Elsheikh, an Egyptian-American Muslim representing the Al Dostour liberal party, called for more unity during the holiday period and beyond.
     
    “We are all Egyptians, and Muslims and Christians belong to the same grandfather,” he said. “True Muslims should treat Copts as an integral part of the Egyptian society.”

    You May Like

    Greenpeace Leak: US-EU Trade Deal Would Favor Corporations

    Activist group leaks classified documents to 'shine a light' on talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact

    Video Ethiopia's Drought Takes Toll on Children

    East African country’s crops failed in 2015, creating food shortages for 10 million – including 6 million children whose development may be compromised

    What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

    People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and Jonathans are usually Democrats

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: ali baba from: new york
    January 08, 2013 4:24 AM
    Coptic should concern about their safety under Muslim brotherhood .Instead to cry in church, they should write to the law maker and Obama to stop unlimited support for Muslim brotherhood. they should contact IMF to deny loan to Egypt .once economic pressure on Egypt Gov. ,the Gov. might change a little bit

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora