AFRICA/EGYPT - Islamist threats against the Christmas celebration; Muslim leaders: we defend the churches together with Christians

Friday, 19 December 2014

Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - In Egypt even this year, as in the past, as the Christmas celebration approaches the Internet becomes a vehicle for attacks and threats against local Christian communities. Islamist sites warn Muslims to refrain from any form of participation, even indirectly, with regards to the Christian celebrations, attacking Muslims who give their best wishes to their Christian neighbors at Christmas. In the Islamist blogosphere there are also death threats and incitement to organize attacks against churches during the busy Christmas liturgical celebrations, with particular reference to the Christian communities in the governorates of Minya, Alexandria and Fayyum, where Islamist groups linked to Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood are stronger.
The seriousness of the threats this time has pushed authoritative and recognized Muslim academics to denounce and condemn the threats and diktat against Christians. Among others, even Amna Nosseir, professor of religion and philosophy and already dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at the al-Azhar University, has strongly advocated that anti-Christian slogans and anti-Christian intimidations relaunched in view of Christmas represent a betrayal of authentic Islam, and called on "Christians and Muslims" to protect the churches together from any threat, so that Egyptian Christians can celebrate their liturgical solemnities in peace.
Even Fawzi al-Zafzaf, former president of the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for dialogue with the Holy See, repeated that incitement to religious hatred comes from "enemies of the Fatherland" who deny the true Islam, and asks for appropriate protection measures and serious investigations to identify the perpetrators of such intimidation.
"Threats and insults have been going on for years", explains Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh to Agenzia Fides, "but we try to live the days that separate us from Christmas with serenity. We do not feel intimidated. Also because the evil and fanatic attacks give way to many sincere Muslims to react. This, paradoxically, is a positive result of the threats. The fanatic currents have taken advantage of the liability and the silence of others for many years". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 19/12/2014)