U.S. embassy in Cairo condemns "the violence" after Egyptian police help attack Coptic cathedral

As the old saying goes: Guns don’t kill people, “violence” kills people.

Amb. Patterson and the entire staff of the Embassy convey our deepest condolences to the friends and families of the Egyptians – both Christian and Muslim – who were killed or injured in the recent violence in Al Khosous and Abassiyya. We condemn the violence, and welcome President Mohamed Morsy’s promise to conduct a full and transparent investigation. It is the responsibility of the state to protect all of its citizens.

Follow the link for Facebook comments scoffing at the embassy’s tender naivete that Morsi will crack down on “the violence.” It’s true that Morsi did phone the Coptic pope to express solidarity after the cathedral attack, but the Times’s account of what happened adds interesting nuance to that. Give ’em credit, too: Unpleasant facts about the Middle East are often suppressed by the media for fear of making a perpetually bad situation worse.

The violence began Friday when a sectarian dispute in the town of Khusus outside Cairo escalated into a gunfight that killed four Christians and a Muslim — the first major episode of deadly sectarian violence since Mr. Morsi’s election last year. Hundreds of Christians and sympathetic Muslims gathered at the cathedral Sunday for the four Christians’ funeral, chanting for the removal from power of Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies.

“With our blood and our soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross,” the crowd intoned.

Clashes erupted immediately after the service between the emerging mourners and a crowd outside the cathedral. It was unclear who started the violence. But later dozens of riot police with armored vehicles and tear-gas canons appeared to enter the fray on the side of crowds of young Muslim men who were throwing rocks and fire bombs at the mourners.

In what seemed like a siege of the cathedral, tear-gas canisters fell inside the walls of its compound, sending gas into the sanctuary and two nuns running for shelter in a nearby loading dock.

Later, some of the young civilians who had been attacking the cathedral switched to taunts, making lewd gestures involving the sign of the cross. The riot policemen made no attempt to stop them, either from throwing rocks toward the cathedral or insulting the Christians.

The Christians and their supporters fought back, some allegedly with fire bombs. According to the bishop, the area around the cathedral was left unsecured for five hours before the funerals — which wouldn’t be the first time Egyptian security was conspicuously thin at a moment when the risk of an attack was unusually high. Either Morsi and the Brotherhood have tacitly (or not so tacitly?) authorized this insanity or they’ve lost control of Islamist/Salafist sympathizers in the security forces, some of whom may feel emboldened by the Brotherhood’s rise to power. And our diplomats evidently are in no position to challenge them on it. Remember, before today’s weaselly statement, the embassy yanked a tweet linking to Jon Stewart’s criticism of Morsi for fear of further offending the MB. If you’re willing to look the other way at this in the name of “peace,” I guess you’re obliged to look the other way at everything.

Exit quotation from a human-rights advocate, speaking to Kirsten Powers for her recent column about persecution in the region: “The future of Christians in the Middle East is very bleak. What has happened in Iraq and Syria is de facto ethnic cleansing of Christians.”

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023