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Christians in the Muslim World

Uprooting the Terrorism Tree

The Copts between two fires’: so P. Rafiq Greiche, Director of the Press Office of the Catholic Church in Egypt, described the situation to Oasis of the Christian minority just before Christmas. The bomb attack on Alexandria’s Church of Two Saints has unfortunately demonstrated that this was no exaggeration.





The first fire – he continued – is constituted by the government, or rather the bureaucratic apparatus, which without much ado often puts into effect discriminating policies : it is hard to obtain a permit to build new churches, almost impossible for Christians to reach the high ranks in public administration, the army and in university teaching, impossible to have any possible conversion from Islam to Christianity recorded on one’s identity card. Hence international pressure, as well as the anger of the Coptic protesters, has been directed at this government.



One can only hope that the protests will bring about some changes. Nonetheless, it seems naïve to think that this will be enough to stop terrorism, the second fire pointed out by P. Rafiq; a reality that extends well beyond the Egyptian frontiers.


After the bomb attack in Alexandria, as in other similar cases, there are those who weep and those who rejoice. But they are minorities. The real battle is fought at the level of the silent majority. An Iraqi Dominican priest interviewed by Oasis after the bomb attack of the Syro-Catholic cathedral of Baghdad explained: “There are some people who are very sympathetic with us. This attitude was evident particularly in Baghdad. There are many young Muslim men and Muslim women who come to pray for the martyrs who fell in the church.



Others are indifferent, they do not see, they take no interest, and I am somewhat afraid of these people [...] It even happens that they make fun of us”. In the recent events however an until now unknown factor has come into play: the immediacy of the new media. The pictures of the attack, even the Facebook profiles of one of the victims, the protests that ensued, everything can easily be found on Internet. Nobody really knows how the consciences will react. Will it be more the Egyptians that cover their eyes and ears or those showing solidarity with the victims? In their run to turn murder into a show, in the strange mixture of reactionary modernity that distinguishes them, the terrorists have made a bet: there will be more connivers. But there could also be a boomerang effect. For the reason that, despite the thousands of possible interpretations, the fact remains that over 20 people were blown up while they were praying. One cannot help but ask oneself: “What harm did they do?”





Benedict XVI has firmly bet on the evidence of truth since the beginning of his pontificate. But with a fundamental addition: it is necessary to clearly indicate also the reason why it is wrong to kill in the name of God. Hence arises the invitation to repeat the gesture of Assisi, in the conviction that it is not sufficient to condemn the bitter fruits of terrorism, but the tree must be taken out by its roots. The fact that modern day Islam has a problem with violence is evident to everyone, first of all to the eyes of the Muslims themselves, who continue to pay the greatest tribute of blood in the long war started by the terrorists (it suffices to think of the hundreds of thousands of victims in Algeria or of the recent case of the governor of the Punjab in Pakistan). To begin a serious reflection on this question with the future in mind is the best means to stop this spiral of hatred.



 * Article published by the Italian daily Avvenire on Friday 7 January 2011, p.2