Under President Mubarak, Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been bombed by extremists, denied justice when murdered and massacred by Muslims, severely discriminated against in government employment, scapegoated by the government press, prevented from building churches, harassed by police, afforded little protection from bigoted mobs, and made to suffer numerous other injustices and indignities because of their faith — this on top of the limits on their rights and freedoms that are the general lot of Egyptians.
Still, most accounts reveal that Copts are siding with Mubarak over the Muslim Brotherhood. The choice for them is stark, as an insightful Los Angeles Times piece today makes clear. Sameh Joseph, a church worker at the Patriarch of the Orthodox Christians Church in Alexandria, is quoted explaining: “He’s the best of the worst. . . . Whoever comes after him might want to destroy us.”
But Washington Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein, in a piece yesterday making the same overall point that Copts fear a post-Mubarak Islamist state, also reports that President Obama may be relying on an adviser who is giving a rather different picture. According to Boorstein, Joel Hunter, an evangelical pastor of a Florida church, is a “frequent adviser to President Obama,” and “he’s hearing a lot of optimism from Egyptian Christians who believe the uprising will lead to more freedom and religious liberty.”
Hopefully, the State Department is also providing the president with analysis on the fate of Christians and other religious minorities, including Muslim minorities, under Islamist rule, drawing from its own annual religious-freedom reports, as well as those of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, and others.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Religious Freedom.