There is a refugee crisis taking place inside Egypt. This became apparent on October 5th, when Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi met with a group of Coptic Christians who had been driven from their homes by Muslim extremists in Rafah, a city located on Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.
Morsi met with the families in El Arish, a town approximately 30 miles from Rafah in an attempt to reassure them that the threats and violence they endured before fleeing their homes would never happen to them again.
“What happened is an individual case which represents neither Egypt nor its children, Muslim or Christian,” he said. “It’s a crime for which the perpetrators must be held responsible.”
Morsi intimated to his Coptic audience that he would work to find new homes and livelihoods for them elsewhere in Egypt. This prompted an angry response from the Coptic families who complained that they had already established their lives in Rafah – the city where they had just been driven from and where Christians had been living for close to two millennia.
It’s interesting to note that Morsi did not meet with the Copts in Rafah itself, but in a town approximately 30 miles away.
The city of Rafah, from which weapons are being smuggled through tunnels into the Gaza Strip on a regular basis, has been effectively overrun by Jihadists who are even more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood. If Morsi, Egypt’s president, can’t set foot in Rafah, there is simply no way he can help Coptic Christians to move back into the city.
The ethnic cleansing of Coptic Christians from Rafah is of great consequence. Rafah is the place where, according to tradition, Jesus Christ crossed into ancient Egypt soon after his birth to avoid his detection and murder by King Herod in Bethlehem in a story told in the Gospel of Matthew.
By acquiescing to the cleansing of Christians from Rafah – where one church (out of three in the city) has been recently destroyed – Morsi is cooperating with the Islamist project of separating Christianity from its historical and geographical roots in the Middle East.
And the fact remains that Copts have not just been driven from their homes in Rafah, they’ve been driven from homes in cities and towns throughout Egypt. President Morsi’s government also refused to allow the church to be re-built.
The ongoing war against Copts in their homeland is taking place on a judicial level as well. Egypt’s constitution is being rewritten by a committee dominated by Islamists. One member of the committee that is rewriting Egypt’s constitution, Yasser Borhamy, recently told his fellow Egyptians that they should not drive Chevrolet automobiles because they are decorated with a cross.
Borhamy, a physician as well as one of the top Salafist clerics in Egypt, issued a fatwa stating that Egyptian taxi drivers should not stop for Coptic Priests because they are most likely headed to church where they will commit a sin. He has also ruled that Copts and women cannot hold positions of authority in the Egyptian government. Dr. Borhamy further publicly stated that while he deeply hates Christians he is still capable of treating them justly.
With statements like this coming from a prominent member of the committee that is re-writing Egypt’s constitution, it’s clear that events like what we’ve seen in Rafah are going to become even more commonplace.
Eventually, the refugee crisis inside Egypt will spill over its borders and become an international problem.
How will Western leaders and intellectuals respond?
Michael Armanious (who co-authored this article) is a Coptic Christian who lives in the U.S. He edits a blog titled “The New Egypt.” Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
First published in the Commentator.