Sunday, May 8, 2011

First post! How should a nation respond to hate crimes?

Hello!  This is my first post, and I've been thinking about starting this blog for awhile, but the impetus was definitely the recent events in Imbaba.  I'm not really an expert on anything, and I'm not sure that anyone will read what I write, or that I even have anything very unique to say.  But the reason I'm starting this blog is because I see so many arguments thrown out there that are untenable:  that Muslims and Christians hate each other, and that's the root of the problem, that the Church leadership is making things worse, that Christians are so passive and have pulled themselves into a ghetto etc., etc.  Some of these things are actually true and totally legitimate criticisms, but they're not necessarily a valid or appropriate response to violence against Christians.  And by valid and appropriate, I mean a response that would advocate alleviating harm instead of making excuses and false equivalencies.

Here is a valid response to violence against a minority, ANY minority: "Violence against *minority* is never acceptable.  Violence against another religion's house of worship is never appropriate.  Attacking shops and businesses belonging to *minority* is never acceptable and should be met with swift justice and prosecution."  That, or something like that, is the appropriate response to hate crimes.  And again, by appropriate, I mean that is the response that would begin a healing process, that would make someone who is the target of a hate crime feel better.

But why should someone care about that, particularly someone in the majority?

Why should they care about Christians, and their feelings, particularly Christians that seem to hate them, or fear them?

For one thing, these events, and their growing frequency and violence, are an international humiliation for Egypt.  They hurt Egypt's image, as well as its ability to draw back tourists and heal the economy.  No one wants to visit a country in sectarian chaos.  The whole mess is like a giant black spot on the revolution, and it's only growing.

But really, a passive "everyone is wrong" reaction has other unintended consequences.  It makes the rift larger.  It makes Copts feel like non-citizens, like people who can never be free in their own country.  You should be safe from crime, no matter what your religion, your church, your feelings are.  When a crime is committed against you, and then someone tells you "But it's partly YOUR fault!" they are basically telling you "Screw you!", that they don't care, not about you, and not about your rights.  And eventually, some people get fed up, take that message and do something about it. Some Copts have actually begun openly asking the U.S. for protection.  This is a disaster on a variety of levels.  It's another national humiliation on Egypt.  The idea that a country's citizens would openly and publicly ask another country to protect them indicates a level of hopelessness that I can't imagine.  You've essentially given up on being a citizen of your own country, of ever having equality.  But I think what these people want is not "protection."  They want the U.S. and Canada to open immigration doors for Copts.  They want to leave, and they want everyone else to be able to leave too.  They're fed up.  Maybe that's something that a lot of Egyptians want, I don't know.  But that's something that Egypt, as a nation, has to deal with, before things get even worse.  Later I want to write about what Egypt would lose if all of its Copts just got up and left, but not today.  I'm pooped!  And emotionally exhausted.

Things I want to write about and address in the future: the Church's role, Coptic passivity, immigration, why minority rights are important, and civil rights law.

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