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Before Easter, ISIS Resurrects Violence

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It was supposed to be the season of empty tombs, but in Egypt, the scene has been anything but after two attacks ripped through area churches. For Christians in the Middle East, there is no peace — not even on Palm Sunday — as an astounding 44 victims were slaughtered in targeted attacks that sent a tremor through holy week.

At St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, considered the “historic seat of Christendom in Egypt,” ISIS detonated a bomb that ripped through the congregation, shaking the foundation — not just of the church, but of families’ fragile sense of security. While Coptic Pope Tawadros II was preaching, the explosion sent waves of panic through the region. In another part of the country, a suicide bomb cut as many as 28 lives short and wounded dozens of others. Reverend Danial Maher of Tanta where the second attack took place, lost his 23-year-old son in the blast just as he was singing.

Stunned by the grief and death toll, Egyptian Christians shook their fist at the government for leaving them helpless in the face of such determined evil. Local hospitals and, soon, graves, will be filled with the agonizing evidence that these were not just “citizens,” but Christians, murdered by radical Muslims. Today, while caskets marked with the word “martyr” filled the sanctuaries, men and women stood with their faces in their hands, tears streaming down their faces. “What’s happening is too much,” one Coptic Christian said. “It’s unacceptable.” After the single deadliest day for the country’s Christians in decades, angry congregations say they’re being left to fend for themselves as ISIS declare war on the innocents.

While they wait for their own government to hear their pleas, there is plenty the U.S. can do. In just a few months, we’ve seen bold leadership from the State Department, but in the face of some of the worst genocide in modern history, we need more. It starts with the Trump administration speaking with clarity to the problem — at the U.N. in particular. We also need to re-prioritize religious freedom and human rights in foreign policy. The world must know America will not stand by and let religious freedom be trampled around the globe. But our efforts must go deeper. They should include grassroots work training advocates and working with allies who will defend religious freedom in troubled spots — work which nongovernmental organizations like our friends at Hardwired Global are already doing.

Under President Obama, America has become at least partially responsible for the rash of violence overseas. In many ways, what’s given rise to ISIS abroad is the inability of our secular government elites to understand the significance of religious belief at all — along with the eight years of hostility we’ve seen toward Christianity here at home. As FRC has said before, the domestic approach to religious freedom sends signals to the world. The type and degree of religious freedom violations occurring in the United States are different from those occurring in much of the world, but both share at their roots a hostility to true freedom. And as long as our own government attacks Christian beliefs here at home we are making Christians abroad vulnerable to attacks like these in Egypt. Until we protect religious exercise here at home we are speaking out of both sides of our mouth when we’re condemning religious freedom violations overseas.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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