Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Discussion with Labib Mikhail

Dr. Labib Mikhail is a 90-year-old Egyptian Christian pastor and writer who has lived in the United States since he was forced from Egypt in 1973. Rashid of al-Hayat TV recently interviewed Labib at his home in Virginia. Of particular interest to me was Dr. Mikhail's description of "when the Brotherhood came to town" when he was a young pastor in the upper-Egyptian town of Malaoui ("upper Egypt" means the central part of the country, and I've had the opportunity to visit this town located about 200 miles south of Cairo). Following is that part of the interview:

Labib: Before I left Malaoui, the revolution of the Muslim Brotherhood took place there during Ramadan in 1945. Hasan al-Banna had begun the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Ismailiyah, and the movement spread until it reached Malaoui. For three evenings in a row, Brotherhood members took to the streets following their evening meal shouting "Down with Christianity and Away with the Cross!"

Rashid: And there were Christians present in the town?

Labib: The Christians lived there and were terrified, because those people shattered the windows of the churches with rocks and were threatening them everywhere.

Rashid: Why were they doing this?

Labib: They revolted because they hate Christianity. That is the creed of the Muslim Brotherhood. Christianity cannot coexist with Islam. Things calmed down after three days, and the leaders of the Christian churches all met together and sent a telegram to the central government in Cairo. We asked the government to help us, because we were in danger. The government sent an order to the mayor of Malaoui to arrest the demonstrators before events escalated to their using weapons against the Christians. The mayor asked us why we had sent the telegram and we explained the situation. He then arranged for a large meeting to take place at the Malaoui Center for Quranic Memorization, which was an important local organization, and for one of the pastors to address the meeting. The other pastors asked me to give the speech, even though at 25 I was the youngest. I went and spoke about the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity to more than 400 people including the civilian and military leaders and other leaders of the Muslim community. I explained that the cross represents love, forgiveness, and mercy. After the speech my fellow pastors said to me, "They will certainly kill you for that speech you gave!" But during the next few days, Muslims stopped me in the street to thank me for it. That was my last experience in Malaoui, and soon after I left and moved to Cairo (end of interview).

In 1945 Egypt was ruled by a monarchy led by King Farouk. As a result of the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian treaty, British troops were still in the country, and the United Kingdom played a major role in managing Egyptian affairs. It is easy to understand why a telegram sent from beleaguered Christians in the remote small town of Malaoui to the central government in Cairo could get an immediate and firm response.

Fast-forward 65 years to January 6, 2010, when six young Christians were gunned down as they left a Christmas Eve service in the town of Nag Hamadi. During those 65 years, not only Dr. Labib but tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians (to say nothing of 70,000 Jews) have been forced or have chosen to leave Egyptian discrimination and oppression for better lives elsewhere. Compare the response of the Egyptian government to the 2010 killings to the response in 1945. The situation is not getting better for Egyptian Christians under the current government, it is worse.

A few weeks ago during a demonstration held by Copts to protest the Nag Hamadi murders, an Egyptian woman asked why I, just about the only non-Egyptian present, was taking part. I told her I was concerned about the fate of minorities living in Muslim-majority countries. She then related that as a Christian child living in the upper Egyptian town of Minya she felt free to run and play anywhere in the city. Twenty years later her sister, who is still there, is terrified to have her 10 and 12 year old daughters walk unaccompanied down the street from their house.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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