Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Pope Tawadros II

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

On Sunday, the new pope of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic church was enthroned. The ceremony lasted nearly four hours and was attended by the nation’s Muslim prime minister and a host of Cabinet ministers and politicians. Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Mursi did not attend the enthronement. Pope Tawadros II, 60, was elected on Nov. 4th and his enthronement comes at an uncertain time for Egypt’s Christians, following the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year. Egypt’s Christian minority has been the target of attacks in recent years. The bombing of a major church in Alexandria in January 2011 killed 21 people and sparked worldwide backlash. Christians make up 5-10% of Egypt’s majority Sunni Muslim population and form the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. The rise of Islamist political forces have left many Christians concerned about their future.

Do you think Sunday’s enthronement will help put an end to the rise in anti-Christian attacks? What relationship can Pope Tawadros II expect to have with President Mursi?

BBC News

Washington Post


In Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI calls for peace

Sunday, September 16th, 2012


Indonesia’s Democratic Image Challenged

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Indonesia, once touted by Western leaders and intellectuals as a model for Islamic democracy, is coming under fire for failing to protect religious minorities.

“While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. While Indonesia’s Constitution protects freedom of religion, regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute atheists, Bahais, Christians, Shiites, Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyya faith — a Muslim sect declared to be deviant in many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150 religiously motivated regulations restricting minorities’ rights.”

Andreas Harsono, “No Model for Muslim Democracy,” New York Times Op-Ed piece, May 22, 2012


Egypt’s Copts Opt Out of Drafting New Constitution

Monday, April 2nd, 2012, April 2, 2012

Headline: “Copts Withdraw From Drafting Egypt’s Constitution”

Picture caption: “Copts reject what they call “Islamist domination” of the Constitution Drafting Assembly”

In a development that bodes ill for political stability in Egypt’s near future, the country’s Coptic Christians are pulling out of the group charged with drafting a new constitution dismissing it as useless  ( “عديمة الجدوى” ).   This news falls hard upon the withdrawals of two other prominent representative groups: Egypt’s Liberals (widely credited for starting the revolution in the first place) and Al-Azhar, one of the Muslim world’s leading sources of legal authority and the oldest institution of Islamic learning in the world.

Go to story (in Arabic)

UPDATE — Later same day —  Articles in English – See  Heba Saleh, “Egypt’s Copts Withdraw From Constitutional Panel,” Financial Times, April 2, 2012 ; See also  Reuters, “Egyptian Copts Abandon Constitution Talks,” via Euronews, April 2, 2012.

UPDATE — April 10, 2012 —  The BBC is reporting that an Egyptian court has suspended the constitutional assembly — Details.


How and When Did the West Become Interested in the Creation of a Jewish State in Palestine?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Western interest in dominating the affairs of geographical Palestine goes back as far as Alexander the Great, followed, of course, by the Romans and the Byzantines.  The Crusades (1095-1291) represent an exclusively European Christian attempt to dominate the region.

However, the yearning for a Jewish state with Jerusalem at its political and religious center begins, so Barbara Tuchman argued, with the translation of the Bible into English.  Her book, Bible and Sword. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984 (first published in 1956), posits the following points in the development of this yearning:

1.  Translation of the Bible into English in the 16th century.

2.  The growth of English (and French) mercantile interests in the Far East (by way of the Middle East), 16th – 19th centuries.

3.  Puritan interest in the restoration of Palestine to the Jews as the necessary precondition for the coming of the Messiah as foretold by the Old Testament prophets, 17th century onward: see especially such early expressions as that of Joanna and Ebenezer Cartwright, who in 1649, petitioned the British and Dutch governments to become the first and the readiest to transport Izraell’s sons and daughters in their ships to the Land promised by their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for an everlasting Inheritance.  Puritans believed that the second coming of the Messiah could occur only after the Jews had been restored to Zion.

4.  Patronage of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Seventh Lord of Shaftesbury in 1840.  He coined the slogan, “A land without people for a people without land.”

The dream crossed the Atlantic with the Puritan pilgrims and quickly became established in North America.  At this point, the best source on the history of the dream is Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.New York: Norton, 2007.

Coptic Pope Dies March 17 at age 88

Monday, March 19th, 2012

After battling cancer, Pope Shenouda III died on March 17.  During his life, he was known for conflicting with Sadat, particularly on the issue of the state of Israel.  After living in exile during Sadat’s reign, Shenouda returned to Egypt in 1985.  During the reign of Mubarak, he largely supported the regime and military.  Under his leadership the Coptic church expanded in New Zealand, the United States and Australia.  Yet he was sometimes criticized in his own country for not standing up for the rights of Coptic Christians enough, the are just under 10% of the population.  Most recently, after an attack on Coptic Churches that killed 26, Pope Shenouda described the people who died as martyrs.

Since his death on Saturday, thousands of mourners have come to St. Mark’s Cathedral pay respects to the Pope.  Al Rawya Rageh,describes the streets as “flooded with mourners dressed in black.”  Upon hearing of Pope Shenouda’s death, the Roman Catholic Pope sent his condolences, as well as many other church leaders. The funeral ceremonies will take place on Tuesday.

One major question going forward is who will become the next Coptic pope.  For the next two months, Bishop Pachomious of the Nile Delta province of Beheira has assumed papal duties.

Question: How might the timing of Pope Shenouda’s death impact the experience of Christians in Egypt.?  What other factors are at play in Egyptian religious and political life that are relevant?

Find his obituary at the BBC.

Images at the BBC.

More information at Al Jazeera.


Egypt’s Coptic Christian Pope is Dead

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Pope Shenouda III  is dead at the age of 88.  Coptic Christians, by the most current estimates, make up to 5-9% of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population.

Story at the BBC

More at CBS News

BBC Guide to Christians in the Middle East

More on Coptic Christians


Who Has Sovereignty Over Jerusalem?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

This is the question behind recent protests at Mount Moriah in the center of Jerusalem’s Old City, site of what some Jews and Christians call the Temple Mount and what Muslims call Haram al-Sharif, “The Noble Enclosure,” an area that is home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, third holiest site of pilgrimage for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.  The area sits above Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, the only part of the Jewish temple remaining since the building was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.  Muslims call Jerusalem Al-Quds, “The Holy.”

These troubles coincided with The International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem, convened in Doha, Qatar to address what some call the “Judaization of Jerusalem.”

Daniela Deane, “Faiths Clash at Jerusalem’s Sacred Site,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2012


Background – On the legal questions surrounding who has sovereignty, compare the following pieces:

Wallace Edward Brand, “Israeli Sovereignty Over East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria,”, March-April, 201o

John V. Whitbeck, “Words Matter: A New Language for Peace,”, Feb, 1, 2012

Israeli Government Press Office, “History of Jerusalem,”, (no date)


Additional Resource:  IME Study Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict 


Going Crazy in Jerusalem

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Jerusalem can make you crazy.  Pesach Lichtenberg, a psychiatrist at Herzog Hospital, is there to help:

Chris Nashawaty, “The Jerusalem Syndrome: Why Some Religious Tourists Believe They Are the Messiah,”, Feb. 17, 2012


Ethiopian Christians to be Deported from Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

An estimated 35 Ethiopian Christians are facing deportation from Saudi Arabia after authorities raided a private prayer service in Jeddah, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW).Police arrested the group – including 29 women – after raiding a prayer meeting in mid December. The women were subjected to strip searches and the men beaten and called “unbelievers”, according to HRW. “Two of the women said that officials there forced the women to strip, and then an officer inserted her finger into each of the women’s genitals, under the pretext of searching for illegal substances hidden inside their bodies,” the report said. The group is being charged with “illicit mingling,” though HRW said Saudi Arabia has no law defining that offence. Unrelated men and women are forbidden to mingle in public, though they are generally allowed a degree of freedom in private.

     The conservative Muslim kingdom bans the practice of any religion except Islam  but it recently- in the past  years- pledged to leave people of other faiths alone if they worshipped in private homes. Ethiopia was one of the first Christian countries in the world, having officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th Century. “While King Abdullah sets up an international interfaith dialogue centre, his police are trampling on the rights of believers of others faiths,” said Christoph Wilcke, a senior Middle East researcher at HRW, referring to a Saudi-funded “centre for interreligious and intercultural dialogue” established in Vienna last year.”The Saudi government needs to change its own intolerant ways before it can promote religious dialogue abroad.”

Others are claiming that there isn’t any law defining mingling so do you think Saudi Arabia will go through with the deportation? If they do, how will this affect Saudi Arabia’s relations with Ethiopia, an ally of theirs?

BBC News

Al Jazeera