Monday, January 3, 2011

Objective: Coptic churches

At New Year’s Eve, I followed the horrifying news on internet about the deadly attack on a Coptic Church in Alexandria till late after midnight. The popping fireworks outside were of no interest at all to me – the reality looked completely different and I anyway was not in the mood for any Year End celebrations.

Since most of my Egyptian friends are Copts, I am extremely sensibilised to what is happening here in Egypt; yet, also my partiality for minorities has an important influence.
Hurghada does not dispose of a public Catholic Church so that’s why now and then I go to the Coptic Church. At Christmas, I saw how a security stood beside the entrance. He was leaning against the wall, obviously extremely bored, and was chatting with someone. Without any restraint at all, people passed by him, entering and leaving the Church. This is for sure not a way to protect Coptic Churches from any attacks. This so-called security was simply ridiculous; he obviously ignored his responsibility and duty. Other places reflect the same situation… only when something has already happened, when it is too late, the authorities start to act resp. quickly find a scapegoat or hush up the truth. Same happened in Naga Hammadi on last year’s Coptic Christmas.

Yet now the numbers of protests are increasing all over the country, Copts demand more protection, more rights, more equality… The worm has dangerously turned.

A couple of days ago, I was to my big surprise stopped and questioned at the checkpoint outside of Hurghada, when I wanted to pass by with my racing bicycle. Of course, I neither had a passport nor an ID in my sweaty shirt. I got rather angry and could hardly pull myself together about the nasty questions – the officer seemed to experience the same, since he threatened me by saying “I can send you to the police station” – to which I answered by shrugging my shoulders. However, both of us managed to retain our composure and I asked why I as a foreigner should carry an ID with me while moving around in Hurghada. The political unrests? The expected attacks on Coptic places at this time of the year? He evaded an answer – which was sufficient enough for me.
The next couple of days, I will go to Upper Egypt, where Copts live in greater numbers, yet still as a minority. I wanted to participate in a holy mass at Coptic Christmas – yet they are cancelled everywhere. Imagine: no mass at midnight at Christmas?!

For sure, I will visit monasteries and churches in Upper Egypt – I am longing to do so. And I hope that they will be saveguarded better – not for me but for the sake of this country.

Oh, by the way, I normally forget my ID when cycling… but today, I had it with me.