Yesterday was Black Sunday for Christians around the world. Since 2013 more than 40 Egyptian churches have been torched or damaged. Muhammad signed a pact with the Christians, the pledge of St Catherine. What happened in Egypt against Copts is purely ideological and political. Saudi Arabia has plans for the region.
Paris (AsiaNews) – After a series of attacks on Muslim places of worship in Pakistan, obscurantist forces attacked Coptic churches in Egypt yesterday morning, Palm Sunday. The death toll is heavy: 43 dead. But this is not the final count since many of the wounded remain in critical conditions.
For Christians around the world, this was Black Sunday. It was also as much for Egyptian Muslims and the rest of the world, for all those who still believe that religion is not an instrument of war or an ideology that seeks to destroy humanity.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for these latest attacks. On several occasions, it threatened to exterminate the Copts of Egypt and “purify” the country of “infidels”. Indeed, these are not the first attacks by Islamist barbarians, but they intensified especially after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. According to Human Rights Watch, since 2013 more than 40 churches have been torched or damaged, as well as dozens of Coptic schools, houses and shops.
Copts have been present in Egypt since the dawn of Christianity, a time when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire and eventually the Byzantine Empire. In other words, their presence is older than that of Muslims.
As a Muslim, I must say that no one can justify these attacks on our Coptic brothers. Theologically speaking, there is no truly Quranic or traditional text that calls for violence against them. On the contrary, Prophet Muhammad himself signed a pact with the Copts of Egypt. This is called the Pledge of Saint Catherine (*):
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).
The first and last sentences in this document are very important. They have an eternal and universal dimension. Muhammad said that Muslims should stand by Christians, near and far, rendering moot any attempt to limit the Pledge to the St Catherine Monastery. What is more, by ordering Muslims to respect the Covenant until the day of judgment, any future attempt to revoke these rights is null and void. In short, they are inalienable.
What happened in Egypt against our Coptic brothers is purely ideological and political. Al-Sisi’s visit to the United States and the agreement with President Trump renewing military co-operation between the two countries against religious fundamentalism are cause of concern for Saudi Arabia and especially a threat to its influence in the region. Lest we forget, there is Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Egypt. The pontiff is known for his message of peace and brotherhood between Muslims and Christians.
Saudi Arabia, through its "blessed" son Daesh, appears to be sending a clear message to President al-Sisi. Its goal is to keep Egypt economically, ideologically and theologically under its tutelage; failing this, it appears willing to trigger a civil war between Copts and Muslims.
(*) The document with Muhammad's pledge was kept in the library of St Catherine monastery (Sinai). When the Ottomans conquered Egypt in 1517, Ottoman soldiers took the original document to Sultan Selim I in Istanbul. The original letter is now in the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul. Some Islamic experts examined the text and attest to its historical authenticity. Other scholars say it is a fake, although it reflects the relationship between Christians and Muslims at St Catherine Monastery at the time.