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Even Our Coptic Artifacts And Monuments Have Not Been Spared From Tampering

ICC Note

Egyptian Christians are discriminated against by government of Egypt as well as Egyptian society. As this article reveals, Christian monasteries are attacked while the government fails to protect rich historical monuments of Egyptian Christians.

Dr. Atef MacKar

April 7, 2008 Egypt (Coptic Assembly of America)-A new chapter of the Coptic file shows the continued series of negative discrimination against Copts. The events of this series are about the attacks on our historic artifacts and monuments of the ancient Coptic nation. These artifacts and monuments are evidence of our civilization, and of our people’s contribution to the history of humanity throughout the centuries. Since the 4th Century, our monasteries have been leaders in the monastic way, and throughout different stages in history until the current time. Since the 2nd half of the 20th Century, they have been pioneers in the field of desert reclamation with an efficiency that encouraged the administration of the state to establish associations and ministries for this cause. However, these government associations and ministries began their projects directly next to multiple monasteries, and the only purpose of this was to restrict or harass the monastery so that the desert would not be available to the monks as it used to be. This restriction and harassment has increased until it has now become a plan to steal artifacts and attack the history of our nation. Coloring the desert with the green color of plants is only a cheap attempt to decorate the face of this insane behavior.

In the beginning of the monastic life at St. Macarious, which started in the 4th Century in Shiheet, these lands held artifacts and investment in these lands was not allowed. There have been decisions issued by the Prime Minister relating to this: first, in 1984; which was followed by two other decisions from the Higher Committee of Artifacts, which were only rhetoric, and called for the removal of attacks of the farmers. Karel Innemee, the famous archeologist, issued a report proving that there are a lot of artifacts in this region, which goes back to the 4th and 8th Centuries. The piece of land that is under dispute is 900 acres. What is funny is that the Higher Committee for Artifacts had hired ‘a force’ to guard this area around St. Macarious .but this force only consisted of 1 guard. It is noteworthy that the monastery has offered to buy all this land from the Higher Committee of Artifacts, but the Committee denied its request. However, at the same time, the Committee agreed to allow Mohamed Omara to purchase the land; and the Committee even agreed to test the 1,800 acres worth of land prior to the purchase. Mr. Omara is well known for specifically purchasing land and subsequently destroying the Coptic heritage within that land. This is an example of the unfair and contradictory treatment of the monastery, because the monastery was prevented from exercising its right to buy the land next to it, even though the land is under the monastery’s supervision due to the fact that the artifacts contained in this land belong to the monastery. The decision to sell the land to Mr. Omara is also an example of the Committee’s contradictory statements, because this sale contradicts with the Committee’s two previous decisions in 1984; which named the area as preserved.

Now we have many questions for this committee. Which of these decisions is right, and what should take precedent? Is it that the desert has disappeared, and that there are no other spots to invest except in this land? Or, is there a hidden reason and ulterior motive for the sale of this specific piece of land?

The Coptic file is getting bigger. In all corners, we find violations to the extent that these violations have started to reach the monasteries because the monasteries present a historic and spiritual importance to the Copts. The list of attacks against the monasteries starts with the problem of St. Antony monastery, and continues to St. John the Beloved monastery in Butmos, St. Mary monastery in Altaer mountain, and St. Abu Fana monastery (we find that the violations listed as attempts to destroy a fence or prevent the building of a fence allow for easy stealing of artifacts). And parallel to these attacks, we find violations on the Coptic artifacts (those who sell his history sells his present and future).

Let us pose a question here: Are these unorganized events, or are they related in order to concentrate on harassing the Christian community, wherever it exists? They will not stop at destroying, stealing, or attacking what we have right now; but it extends to destroying the entire Coptic history and civilization.

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