Anyone who watched this week's CBS 60 Minutes, during which Bob Simon explored the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt, cannot be immune to the savage destruction inflicted on their churches by radical Islamists. Many Muslims believe that Coptics, in siding with the military in the coup that overturned the Muslim Brotherhood's president, Mohammed Morsi, were responsible for his overthrow and sought revenge against the Coptics.
The ongoing political violence in Egypt has led to unprecedented attacks on the country's Coptic Christian minority, the worst in their history. Copts, who make up roughly 10 percent of the Egyptian population, were the target of revenge by Muslim mobs this summer after Egypt's first Islamist president was overthrown in a military coup. Over 40 Christian churches all over Egypt were gutted by arson and looted -- some over a thousand years old and full of priceless relics. Copts have also been murdered in ongoing sectarian violence......
One of the Coptic Church's senior leaders, Bishop Thomas, says revenge is not his religion's way. "Forgiveness is a very important principle in the Christian life," he tells Simon. "When you are able to present forgiveness, and love, you are able as well to ask for justice."
(from the CBS 60 Minutes website, December 15, 2013)
Painting slogans on the ruins of the Coptic churches that read Egypt is now Islamist, and leaving that message as the calling card of the terrorists who did their hateful acts of destruction, would not inspire the kind of patience and tolerance, of the acceptance of martyrdom, if such slogans were painted on the walls of Christian churches in many of the cities of the west. There would be police investigations, and if possible, prosecutions, convictions and imprisonments, conducted by the civil authorities.
While watching the Coptic piece, I was wondering if what has happened in Egypt to the Coptics is a foretaste of what radical Islamists are holding as their ultimate vision for their current terrorist crusade against Christians. If it is, then Christians will become intimately acquainted with the kind of violence that Jews have encountered for decades, if not centuries.
And while moderates of all faiths would encourage everyone of all religions to learn the nuances of the faiths of their counterparts from other faith communities, one has to wonder whether or not such encouragement and support can sustain the level of learning, leading to tolerance, that will be required to adopt a position similar to that of the current Coptics in Egypt.
Linking forgiveness to an ensuing petition for justice is not an equation often witnessed in North American communities, with the possible exception of the Amish and Mennonite communities.
Earlier in the day, on an ABC political panel, Cokie Roberts, one of the former hosts of the Sunday talk show, equated the Pope's refreshing message of compassion for the poor in his first nine months in the Vatican to the words of Jesus, wondering why those words were generating so much buzz, unless those generating the buzz were completely unfamiliar with the New Testament.
Tolerance for their enemies, even forgiveness, from the Coptics, and compassion for the poor, even excoriating the rampant and unfettered capitalism that globalization has brought from the Vatican....who knows if we are not entering a time of reversal of some of the fortunes of both radical terror from religious fundamentalists and limits to the unfettered greed that has so seduced Wall Street...oh but that has to be nothing more than a wish-fulfillment dream on the part of this scribe.
Let's not forget that it was Rush Limbaugh, he of the $40 million annual contract, who this week pilloried the Pope for his attack on "unfettered capitalism" which, according to Limbaugh, is the core of the American culture.
Extreme and unfettered capitalism is one enemy faced by all people attempting to eke out an existence on the planet; extreme and apparently unfettered "righteousness" is another enemy faced by those considered to be opponents of "extremeism" in the service of Allah...is there any connection to the apparent unleashing of the forces of extremeism, whether in the service of greed or in the service of Allah?...
Does it really matter which idol is worshipped, when the actions of those worshipping at the idol include the destruction of what others hold sacred, like the peaceful pursuit of a decent living, and the peaceful right to worship as they see fit?
Clearly, the world needs more messages like those coming from both the Vatican and the Coptic leaders in Egypt, conflating both compassion and forgiveness that are the core of the gospel message.
Many church leaders, right here in North America, would do well to read, reflect and implement the guidance of their seemingly detached leaders from other segments of the Christian faith in other parts of the world.