A Washington Post article has caught my eye. It is titled: “Christians flee Sinai Peninsula in fear of Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate.” According to the Post: “Hundreds of [Coptic] Christians are fleeing Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula as the Islamic State affiliate there has increasingly targeted the community in recent weeks, according to witnesses, clergy and human rights activists.”
The Post continues: “In the past month alone, suspected Islamic State militants have killed seven Christians in the town of Arish, the capital of Egypt’s North Sinai province which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. While no militant group has claimed responsibility for the assaults, the Islamic State affiliate, based in Sinai, warned in a video that it would escalate attacks against the besieged minority.”
The Copts, Egypt’s largest Christian group, make up 10% of the Egyptian population. Over the last several years they have witnessed a horrendous string of events that have ranged from murders to the destruction of churches and communities. As I noted in an earlier post tiled “Persecution of Christians Shames Muhammad’s Legacy on Religious Freedom,” one hard hit area has been Al Nazla, where Christian homes and shops have been covered in harsh graffiti that display anti-Christian sentiments.
Sami Awad, a member of the Al Nazla church, stated that “First [Muslims] stole the valuable things, and then they torched the place. Whatever they couldn’t carry, they burned.”
This kind of violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians reminds me of something important – Prophet Muhammad’s Covenant (dated 628 A.D.) with Christian monks at St. Catherine’s, Mount Sinai (Egypt).
In his letter, Muhammad championed peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims. Muhammad also touched upon freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and the right to protection in war.
Here is an English translation of the letter:
“This is a message from Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens, and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey his prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the last day (end of the world).”
The prophet of Islam would have condemned any violence towards Christians and people of non-Muslim faiths. One has to wonder if those involved in these attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt can even call themselves “Muslims” with any real sense of integrity or legitimacy.