Tolerance needed in Egypt
We are taught throughout Jewish text to avoid “Lashon Hara,” usually interpreted as gossiping. Yet the literal translation is to avoid the evil tongue, which to me shows just how dangerous rumors can be and how easily small events can escalate into something truly terrible.
This past week in Egypt, a country that is going through its most significant transition in fifty years, a rumor has escalated tensions between Christians and Muslims, leading to the death of twelve individuals and at least 200 injured.
The rumor was that a Coptic Christian woman, who had allegedly converted to Islam last year, was being held against her will at Cairo’s St. Mina Church. Even though the Egyptian police confirmed that such rumors were untrue, tension between the two groups grew.
Islamic extremists attacked the Christians at the St. Mina church. The Church of the Virgin Mary, also in Cairo, was burned to the ground. Additionally, several Christian-owned shops were attacked and looted.
As Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued in a statement yesterday, “We call on the on the Egyptian government to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure that those who are responsible, including political, military and religious leaders, are held accountable through fair and open legal proceedings. We also call on the government to protect all the citizens of Egypt, but especially religious minorities like the Coptic Orthodox Christians, and use its new found power to bring about a modern, democratic, and just Egyptian society that the citizens have called for.”
Egypt, and particularly the new government, is at such a crucial point in its history and a moment like this raises a lot of questions about how Egypt will be defined. Is this just a bump in the road as a new government learns the ropes or are we going to see systematic discrimination against religious minorities like the Coptic Christians? The spread of democracy in Egypt has so much potential for a positive change. But as both Spider-Man and Voltaire remind us, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It is time for the Egyptian government to prosecute those who committed these atrocities and protect all the citizens of Egypt.