Catching Our Eye

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  • Copts flee El-Arish after sixth murder in month

    Published: Feb. 24, 2017

    Egyptian Christians are beginning to flee Sinai’s largest city, El-Arish, after yet another Copt was killed there, reports Watani.

    Kamel Youssef, a 40 year old plumber, yesterday (23 Feb) became the latest victim, according to AP, which said militants stormed his home and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. Other sources say he was shot in the neck and the family’s home was set on fire.

    This followed the killing of a father and son the day before, after an Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group vowed to “eliminate” Egyptian Christians.

    Six Copts have been killed in El-Arish in the past month and now a number of Coptic families are leaving, including the family of murdered schoolteacher Gamal Tawfiq, who was shot dead on his way to school on 16 Feb, and the family of the murdered father and son, who will stay in their hometown of Suez, where they had travelled to bury their dead.

    Another seven families have reportedly travelled to Ismailiya, on the Suez Canal, where a church has provided them with accommodation. Rev. Ezzat told Watani that another five families are expected today (24 Feb) and that 20 families are expected in total.

    A Cairo church is reportedly helping families to move their belongings.

    Deaths at the hands of militant Islamists in the Sinai Peninsula are not new, especially since the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, but the Egyptian security forces have been the target; now Coptic Christians are included.

  • Iraqi Christian homes ‘looted after IS left’

    Published: Feb. 23, 2017

    Armed forces fighting Islamic State (IS) near Mosul “looted, damaged and destroyed homes” belonging to displaced Iraqis, including Christians, Human Rights Watch said this week.

    The New York-based agency used satellite imagery and took witness statements, and concluded that looting and destruction took place in the weeks after IS fighters had been chased out of locations including the Christian-majority city of Qaraqosh.

    It noted that active in the region are the mainly Shia Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi) that were formed largely to combat ISIS, and are under the direct command of Prime Minister al-Abadi. Military personnel in the area and residents interviewed told the agency that present in Qaraqosh were the Iraqi military’s 9th Division, local and federal police, and the small and mainly Christian Nineveh Plain Protection Units.

    The agency said it was unable to identify the forces responsible for these abuses, and urged the Iraqi authorities and the UN Human Rights Council to investigate their findings – which they say may amount to war crimes – and hold those responsible to account.

    Hussein Al-Alak, editor of the Iraq Solidarity blog, noted that identifying culprits would be complicated by the easy availability of police and army uniforms from street markets.

  • Trump travel ban dints Iraqi Christians’ support

    Published: Feb. 23, 2017

    Iraqi Christians who backed the candidacy of Donald Trump have become disillusioned with his presidency since his executive order barred Iraqis, along with citizens of six other Muslim-majority countries, from entering the US.

    Many Iraqi minorities supported Trump because of his anti-Islamic State rhetoric.

    The Assyrian Church of the East’s Fr. Emanuel Youkhana, in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Dohuk, lamented that Assyrians, who represent many of Iraq’s Christians, “live [with] this illusion of a saviour” because of traumatic persecution over the last century.

    He rejected the idea that the ban is Islamophobic and accused some Western nations of being “naïve” in their efforts to address Islamist-linked terrorism.

    However, he said he did not believe Western nations should welcome large numbers of Iraqi Christians. Failing to enable Christians to live in Iraq would amount to “completing the unfinished mission of IS,” he said.

  • US policy ‘sets back’ persecuted Christians’ cause

    Published: Feb. 23, 2017

    President Trump’s executive order on refugees will “set back, not privilege, the cause of persecuted Christians,” claims a leading US academic.

    The US policy will “undermine the credibility of these Christians’ appeals to universal human rights, makes their protests look like special pleading and hinders their already difficult task of gaining sympathy from human rights groups, the mainstream media, Western governments and international organizations,” claims Professor Daniel Philpott, a specialist on religion and politics at the University of Notre Dame, in a letter to the Notre Dame Observer.

    He also claims the policy confirms the argument by recruiters of terrorists that the US “wishes to fight a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam”.

    Philpott, who also helps run Under Caesar’s Sword, a global research project investigating how Christian communities respond to repression, adds that the policy “suffocates the narrative…of solidarity between Christians and Muslims in common cause against violence and persecution”.

    One of the key findings by Under Caesar’s Sword, he says, is that “Christians often respond to persecution by forming bonds with people of other faiths as a bulwark against extremists”.

  • Indonesian Muslim a ‘role model’ on tolerance

    Published: Feb. 23, 2017

    A university professor on religious freedom, who frequently lectures in Jakarta, has hailed the actions of a local Muslim as an example on how to show tolerance in the “chaos” of elections.

    Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Leimena Institute, welcomed the actions of a man named Fikri, who, despite being of the opinion that Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as “Ahok”), had committed blasphemy, encouraged people to listen to what he had to say.

    “Although Fikri thought Ahok a blasphemer, he did not insult, assail or assault him or, as might happen in many parts of the world, try to kill him,” wrote Marshall in a blog for the Religious Freedom Institute. “Instead, he gave Ahok a Quran, not as a rebuke to show that the Governor was ignorant of what it said, but as a gift welcoming him to the neighborhood.”

    Fikri’s actions were first highlighted by the Jakarta Post, which reported that he’d said: “It’s understandable that many people from areas across the city have rejected his campaign visits. But, let Ahok convey his aspirations [for Jakarta] in this area without rejection, so that the people can know who’s wrong and who’s right.”

    Marshall hailed Fikri as a “genuinely tolerant man”, adding: “He knew well that he disagreed with Ahok, and could not celebrate blasphemy, and so would not vote for him or support him, and said so publicly and clearly. But he also welcomed the Governor and treated him with kindness.

    “Fikri could be a role model, and is a certainly a rebuke to many Americans’ behavior in [the US] election and post-election season. Especially when [Fikri] added that: ‘If Ahok wins the election, as a good citizen, I will accept it wholeheartedly’.”

    Ahok won the initial vote on 15 February, but not enough to secure his re-election. A new round of voting will take place in April, pitting him against his nearest rival, Anies Baswedan.

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