Coptic Lives Matter: New York Times Examines Dangers to Egyptian Christians

Barb Wire

I’ve met Coptic Christians. I’ve heard stories of their suffering before fleeing their native Egypt. Like a man with a scar down the left side of his face, including his eyelid – which he said was split open by in an attack by young men shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

So the New York Times‘ account of Copts in Egypt at a “breaking point” is all too believable, and a vital account to keep in the public eye. This is why its few reporting flaws need attention.

The fair-minded article starts with Imam Mahmoud Gomaa’s appointment to keep the peace between Copts and Muslims in the upper Nile region. The newspaper also reports the support from Copts for Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who seized the governmental reins in 2013.

Then it reports the widespread persecution of the Copts:

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Yet the limits of that support have became evident in Minya, where Christians continue to suffer violence and humiliation. Houses have been burned, Copts attacked on the streets and hate graffiti written on the walls of some churches. In all, Coptic officials have counted 37 attacks in the past three years, not including some 300 others right after Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were ousted from power in 2013.

The turning point for local Copts came in May when an older Christian woman was stripped naked by a mob, which had been incited by reports that the woman’s son was having an affair with a Muslim.

“After that woman was stripped, we couldn’t be quiet, not after that,” Bishop Makarios said. What especially angered Copts, he added, “is that officials came out denying the incident.”

The Times places itself well with a dateline out of the Minya district, in the upper Nile Valley. That’s where some of the worst attacks have happened, according to the Copts I know in South Florida. The further one gets from the major urban areas, where there are international media and other observers, the more trouble there is for religious minorities, such as the Copts.

Religious freedom is especially important in Egypt, which has a comparatively large Christian community – 10 percent of its 88.5 million people

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis writes for, scrutinizing religion coverage in mainstream media. He also runs the Faith and Values page on Facebook, and freelances as a writer and photographer with The Florida Catholic newspaper. He worked for more than three decades as the religion editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, covering national as well as local events and issues. His other projects have included copy editing and writing for a Christian web designer, editing educational white papers for the University of Florida, and publicizing Jewish studies at Florida International University.

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