Saturday, December 3, 2011


There is nothing simple in international relations. No doubt people were cheering their support of the uprising in Egypt against the hard-handed Hosni Mubarak. And the affirmation led to celebration when democratic elections were scheduled and actually began. Results are not complete, but there are good indications of the outlook of those who will be regarded as “winners” in this referendum.

Unfortunately, there will also be “losers.” And the most significant of the minorities in this group will surely be the Coptic Christians. They have suffered discrimination and persecution for decades; if Shariah is established in Egypt, all religions and religious expressions except Islam could be outlawed.

How will the Copts (a most ancient Christian Church) cope? Will they (like their brothers in the Holy Land, or Iraq) feel compelled to leave their homeland?

What to do? Should the United States, as a matter of policy, support the results of democratic elections and the potential of making Egypt a hard-line Islamist state? Or should it make a strong stand in favor of human rights for the Copts?

It is this kind of fear that makes other Orthodox and Catholic Churches wary of the uprising in Syria. Even while the Arab League calls for President Bashar al-Assad to halt his vicious counter-attacks against anti-government demonstrators, Christians there fear that if he were to fall, the alternative would be another strongly Islamist state in which their existence would be severely limited, or even eliminated by law.

What to do? Should the United States stand by and watch as protesters are butchered? Or should it support the Assad regime on the theory “Out of the frying pan means into the fire”?

As a Catholic in the United States I want to affirm freedom, which implies democracy in politics) and religious solidarity (which means support for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in North Africa and the Middle East). But how can I do both?

There is nothing simple in international relations.

1 comment:

  1. You wrote: "As a Catholic in the United States I want to affirm freedom ... and religious solidarity .... But how can I do both?"

    Isn't this essentially the quandary in which God found Himself when he created humanity? Clearly it is God's desire that humans not sin. Yet He created us with the freedom to sin. Shouldn't we follow God's example and come down on the side of freedom? God has permitted countless people to be persecuted throughout time by other people. This persecution occurs because of the freedom He gave humans to sin. So freedom must be very important indeed for God to put up with the repugnance of human sin, which is a direct consequence of the freedom He bestowed upon humanity. Therefore, working for political freedom is of primary importance in this difficult situation. Of course, a political system which preserves the rights of political minorities as much as possible, perhaps a democratic republic like we have in the United States, would be the best outcome. As the situation evolves in the Middle East, U.S. diplomats should use whatever influence they can muster to encourage minority rights in a "new" Egypt or Syria.