Monday, May 4, 2009

Egyptians Use Swine Flu Fear Against Christians

There has been much discussion of the Swine Flu. Although a portion of its genetic makeup is from pigs, its transmission is from human to human. Despite readily available scientific information,the Egyptian government has started destroying pigs to control the spread of Swine Flu, despite the absence from Egypt of the disease.

Most western newspapers are treating this story as a bit of curious misinformation translating into a misguided government program. This is a serious mistake.

Egypt is predominantly Muslim, but it is home to about 12 million Coptic Christians, descendants of the original Egyptians. Although their spoken language is Arabic, their liturgical language is Coptic. Coptic is the original language of Egypt. It is not written as it once was with hieroglyphics but with a modified Greek alphabet to which letters have been added for sounds that do not exist in Greek.

It is Coptic Christians who own and raise the estimated 300,000 pigs in Egypt today, and it is in Christian homes that pig meat is consumed. Many who raise pigs are poorer Christians to whom the loss of their livestock represents an economic hardship.

The Christian Science Monitor explains as follows.

"Most of Egypt’s majority-Muslim population does not consume pork, and the pigs are raised and consumed by Egypt’s Christian minority. The Christian garbage collectors, who sort and recycle the city’s waste, also raise pigs, using them to dispose of some of the garbage, and depend on the animals for part of their livelihood."
There is a long history of anti Coptic discrimination in Egypt. There are numerous instances of anti Coptic violence, from murder, robbery and rape to full fledged pogroms. Coptic Christians in Egypt must be very careful in discussing their faith with their Muslim neighbours. It is forbidden to convert Muslims to Christianity. Anything that could be construed as violating these laws can be construed as attempting to convert Muslims. Any criticism of the Muslim prophet Mohammed can be construed as blasphemy. Islam is firmly dominant in Egypt. Non Muslims are held into second class status through social tradition and government complicity. Coptic girls are frequently kidnapped, raped and forced to convert to Islam. The government does little to alleviate their plight. Its manifest indifference to the abuse of Egypt's Christians has the stench of complicity.

There is a war in Egypt for its soul like in many countries in the Arab world. On the one side are those who believe in freedom of religion and coexistence. Such people see different sectors of society as different tiles in the national mosaic. Others see their interpretation of Islam as the litmus test of loyalty to the nation and winning souls to their faith to be a goal to be accomplished by any means necessary. For such individuals, the Swine Flu is an opportunity to impose their will upon the nation's Christian minority. There have been tolerant strains of Islam in Muslim history. There have been times in Islamic history of tolerance and protection of minorities. Although it is not perceived as such in the West, there is a struggle within Islam for the soul of Islam. The slaughter of pigs in Egypt is one chapter in this story of Egypt's persecuted Christian minority. The Christians of Egypt must not fall victim to the indifference of the West.

The Swine Flu is not transmitted by pigs. Destroying the pigs of poor urban farmers does nothing for the health of the public. If this unfortunate decision by the Egyptian government calls attention to its Coptic minority, it will have served a useful purpose.

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Following are three installments of a documentary on Egypt's Christians. It paints a grim picture. Part one is the embedded video below. Parts two and three are links


Part Two Christians in Egypt


Part Three Christians in Egypt





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