WHEN EVEN DIOCLETIAN COULD BE TOLERANT – THE TROUBLE WITH SOME OF OUR BISHOPS: IN PRAISE OF ISLAMISM
Figure 1: His Grace, Anba Moussa, General Bishop for Youth in the Coptic Church
I have been hesitant to talk about this issue because of the deep respect we, Coptic nationalists, hold for the Coptic Church and its clergy. As we have said before, our admiration for our Church does not stem only from its great spiritual position but also for its central and crucial role in preserving our identity as Copts. But we must expose bad political statements issued by some of the Church’s clergy when such statements can potentially damage our nation and its struggle against Islamism and its oppression, and in pursuit of freedom and equal rights in a secular democratic Egypt.
In 2011, following the Village of Sole incident on March 5, 2011, when a church was set on fire by a group of Muslim men angry that a Muslim woman was romantically involved with a Christian man and the Copts of the village intimidated and bullied, a video surfaced in the social media in which His Grace, Anba Moussa, Coptic Church General Bishop for Youth, was featured talking about the “love” and “justice” of Islam, which Islam marched on with, and which “we have witnessed”. He then goes on to praise the “absolute love and wisdom” of Umar ibn al-Khattab (634 – 644 AD), the Second Caliph of Islam who occupied Egypt and is considered to be one of the most anti-Christian of all caliphs; Amr ibn al-Assi (641 – 645; 658 – 664 AD), the Arab general who invaded and subdued Egypt; and Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin; 1171 – 1193 AD), who persecuted the Copts and destroyed their monasteries and churches. Additionally, he talks about “us standing together” against the French, English and Crusaders, which is not only inaccurate historically but also economical with honesty when one focuses on “Christian invaders” and ignores all “Muslim invaders” of Egypt. The reader can watch the video and judge for himself:
This video was met with much shock within the Coptic communities across the world. Many got confused and many were outraged, but most preferred to hide it away quietly and forget about it in honour of the beloved bishop. It was hoped it would be a one-off.
And now, on the Coptic Christmas of 2013, Anba Moussa repeats the same mistake. Here is his new video in an interview with a journalist from OnTV:
Here we have a strange praise of the Islamist president Mohammad Morsi, who is received with opposition not just from Copts but millions of liberal Muslims because of his policies that are anti-democratic, anti-women, anti-Copts, anti-freedoms and anti-human rights. Anba Moussa tells us, against all evidence, that “the Copts are not afraid of Islamic rule”; that “on the contrary, Islamic rule will be better for us than any other rule (it will warm us more, is the phrase he uses/حيدَفْدِفْ علينا أكتر)”.
How do you explain that? Is it ignorance? Is it naivety? Is it cowardice? I don’t know, but I think it is absolutely irresponsible for a senior Coptic Church figure to come up with such statements that are at odd with the mainstream views of the Coptic Church and with the Coptic public opinion at large.
One would like to believe that Anba Moussa is using a common tactic in Egyptian culture, of praising evil in hope of getting some good out of it. Such tactic is whimsical and only a testament to how oppressive Egyptian society is. Those who use this tactic do not try to confront the root causes of oppression head on but hope to benefit from it through hypocrisy and the praise of that which could not possibly be praised.
One friend has suggested that it is Stockholm syndrome, and he is possibly right when one looks at its definition:
Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy, sympathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.
Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they no longer become a threat.
How can we avoid such statements? I think the Coptic Church needs to be better organised and learn from the Roman Catholic Church on this. There must be a spokesperson for the Church, and the Coptic Holy Synod needs to take a stronger position on formulating public statements and deciding who should say what.
This must not be regarded as an attack on His Grace, Anba Moussa, who is much loved by Copts, and is regarded as leading a saintly life, but a criticism, and a justified one, since his statements could be potentially injurious to the Coptic Church; to the Copts, both spiritually and politically; and to Egypt’s chances for a real democracy where Islam and the Islamists do not decide rights and wrongs.