Horrific attacks on the Coptic community in Egypt are shocking the world. The recent bloody bomb attacks on the Churches in Cairo, Tanta and Alexandria. And last week the cowardly ambush on busses with Copts from Minya who were on their way to visit a monastery.
Is this a new trend? No! The Copts have been under attack since ages. As ethno-religious minority they are about 15% of the population. The last wave of attacks on Copts was not even long ago. Under the democratic elected president Morsi, who did not put any effort in protecting the secular principles of the Egyptian society. The main question to answer now is: will this wave of violence eventually tear the Egyptians apart? Like Syria and Libya are torn apart.
I asked this question to two wise Egyptians living in The Netherlands before I moved to Cairo two years ago. Their answer highly surprised me at that time. ‘No!’ they said ‘We are first of all Egyptians. We lived along the Nile as farmers for thousands of years. The fact that we are Muslim, Copt or adhere to any other religion comes in second place. We never travelled around like the Bedouins. We are one people who always lived on fertile soil. The gift from the Nile.’
It was an interesting and surprising answer. But having lived two years in Egypt now, I see their point. Egyptian traditions hardly differ between Muslims and Copts. I see it in their religious celebrations, marriages, bringing up children and even in their funerals. Culture unites them. This deep historical heritage dates back to Pharaonic times. There are undeniable tensions between Muslims and Copts in Egypt, but to me it seems that the terrorist attacks will unify the Egyptians more than separate them.
Gerrit Jan Schep