You’re having a tough time in what our president likes to call The Muslim World, I know that. Even in Egypt, where you’re 12 or 13% of the population, and where you’ve been living since long before the creation of Islam. Your churches are being torched, your faithful are being killed, your people are headed for exile.
I care a lot about the Copts. Barbara and I — two American Jews — were introduced by a Coptic fashion designer in Rome, a beautiful woman named Isis. She performed a miracle for us; she thought we’d get along well…and we sure have. So my support for you is not just political. It’s personal as well. Romantic, even.
You’re asking for the support of the West against your killers and oppressors. You want American help, and you would like Jewish help too, although not too publicly, lest your killers cite it as additional justification for their acts. We’ll try to help. But we’d be in a stronger position if you’d fought on our side when the same gang of thugs threw us out of Arab lands. But you didn’t. Not you Copts, not your hundreds of millions of Christian brothers and sisters. You know the famous Bonhoeffer quote, don’t you? It’s all too appropriate for you today:
…First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me…
So there you are. Bonhoeffer joined the failed conspiracy against Hitler, and was executed. His terrible confession can be echoed by a sea of new victims, all guilty of an awful sin of omission, the sin of remaining silent while others are being mudered or brutalized. That sin, as you and your brethren know all too well today, has terrible consequences, that go far beyond feelings of guilt and expressions of remorse. It costs even more lives.
We hear echoes of Bonhoeffer in the words of Maziar Bahari, a one-time Newsweek contributor in Tehran, when he was thrown into the ghastly prisons of the Iranian tyrants:
…I thought I had done everything I could to avoid the suffering that Maryam, and my father before her, went through as political prisoners, and yet the authorities came for me shortly after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial reelection in 2009.…I had taken every precaution to stay below the radar. But my time had come, and they tortured me for 118 days before I was released because of a global campaign spearheaded by my wife…
Bahari lived to write his prison memoirs, even as his employer, Newsweek magazine, often pumped out all manner of anti-American disinformation, as the infamous libel according to which American soldiers threw a Koran down a toilet.
Notice why Bahari’s life was spared: “a global campaign spearheaded by my wife.” She, at least, fought back, and she found others willing to fight alongside her. That’s the way it works. It’s easier to find allies when they can see you’re on the battlefield. It’s a lot harder if you’re just making the “moral case” and begging to be saved.
Dear Mr. Leeden,
How nice of you to write this letter to my Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt. The Copts have long fascinated me and having recently read about early Christianity, especially the growth of the first monasteries (praise God for Saint Anthony!), I have become more amazed by their survival against all odds. The Nitrian Desert monasteries are particularly impressive (where you’ll find Saint John the Dwarf and Saint Moses the Black buried — they don’t name them like they used to).
But as for your letter, I guess I’m much more skeptical about your optimism regarding the “terror masters in Damascus and Tehran”. Certainly their demise will be good for Washington (and Israel) but will it help the Copts? Let’s face it, ever since 641 when the Arabs invaded Egypt (interesting question — what percentage of the current population of Egypt is Arabic, Egyptian or a mix of the two?) the Copts, like other Christians throughout the world under Islam, have lived as second class citizens when the Arabs took over. So isn’t the real problem Islam itself and the Copts minority status within Egypt? Only a long process of Arabic conversion and salvation through Christ can bring real change for the Copts — let’s hope they can hang on until then.