The images from Egypt are heartbreaking. Women being beaten, kicked and dragged through the streets.
The violent response to protesters from the Egyptian military has resulted in at least the deaths of 10 people in recent days - including two children. This latest disturbing event is occurring as the votes continue to be counted in the national elections and as radical Islamists continue to gain ground.
The Muslim Brotherhood is now approaching 40% of the vote in the second round of the country's staggered parliamentary election.
A troubling trend for the reported 8 to 10 million Coptic Egyptians, which represents about 10% of the total Muslim population. Clearly, what is happening in Egypt is not a good sign, prompting ominous predictions from many. "Christians are rightly concerned," said Odon Vallet, a French historian and expert on religion. "Their future in the region is rather bleak . . . and the current political climate is not in their favor."
And with women now being openly targeted in Egypt, there's growing concern - especially from women who are Coptic Christians. In recent testimony before the Human Rights Commission in the House, Cynthia Farahat, a Coptic Christian and human rights activist from Egypt, told lawmakers that Christians in Egypt have been suffering violent persecution due in no small part to the billions of dollars in military aid the U.S. has given Egypt since 1979 - a government that has used its military to attack its citizens.
"I have an Egyptian passport, but I am not a citizen," Farahat told the committee. "The concept of citizenship is a western concept that does not apply to us in Egypt. I am a woman and I am a Copt. I am a fourth-class citizen in Egypt. The first class citizen in Egypt is the Sunni male. Second class is the Sunni female. The third class is the Coptic male and the fourth class is the Coptic female."
A respected writer in his native Egypt, Dr. Sherif Meleka - a physician specializing in pain management with the rank of Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore - believes that this rapid trend towards Islamization is sweeping Egypt without any hint of a substantial opposition. In a recent post, Dr. Meleka put the issue into perspective: Will this "new" Egypt look more like Pakistan, with an unbreakable alliance between the army and the Islamists in defiance of democratic and progressive values?
Everyone is trying to figure out what the future will bring. As one analyst put it: "The Christians have always been a minority in the Middle East, but an active minority." With Egypt moving forward in assembling a new government, the question now becomes, how will Christians adapt?
As we celebrate this Christmas season, please keep all Christians - especially those in the Middle East - in your prayers. This is such an important time in Egypt. Coptic Christians face new dangers and new challenges. New fears, too.
At the ACLJ, we will continue our work to assist them and stand with them as this new government takes shape.