Coptic Pope Cancels Weekly Bible Study; Fears for Congregation’s Safety

The BBC reports that Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church (below) has cancelled his weekly public Bible study because he fears for the safety of his audience. At these weekly gatherings, Tawadros takes questions on Bible passages from a congregation gathered inside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. Since the fall of the Morsi government, however, threats have increased against Copts throughout Egypt. In one incident recently, someone raised an al-Qaeda flag outside a Coptic church while people worshipped inside. A large public gathering at Cairo’s main cathedral might provide too tempting a target.

Things have been bad for Copts for some time. Even under Mubarak, Copts complained that the state failed to protect them from sectarian violence. The situation has worsened, however, in the weeks following the fall of the Morsi government. Several Copts have been murdered and scores injured.  “We had never experienced the kind of persecution we suffer now,” one Copt from the south of Egypt, a pharmacist and mother of two, recently told the AP. “We are insulted every day.”

Traditionally, Copts avoided Egyptian politics. That changed during the Arab Spring. Copts were prominent in the protests that led to the overthrow of Mubarak and vocal in protesting their treatment under the Muslim Brotherhood. Then, Pope Tawadros appeared in that famous TV broadcast announcing the overthrow of the Morsi regime–along with the leader of Al-Azhar, it should be pointed out–to voice his support for the military. His appearance seems to have exposed Copts to even more danger than usual. Pointing to the broadcast, Islamists now allege that the overthrow of Morsi was a Christian-orchestrated plot against Islam.

I’ve written before about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the lack of interest among American elites, even in the human rights community. But the situation for Copts has become truly dire, and Americans are beginning to take notice. There isn’t too much the US can do to help, unfortunately. Expressions of support for Mideast Christians can easily backfire. As Nina Shea has argued, however, America can do more to ensure that humanitarian assistance actually reaches Mideast Christians–in Syria, for example. And the US can fast-track asylum applications from Copts and other Mideast Christians in order to provide a haven for those who wish to leave. This last option isn’t a great solution, as it would only accelerate the depopulation of Christian communities in the Middle East. But leaving these Christians to their fate shouldn’t be an option, either.

Welcome to Perry Dane

We’d like to welcome Professor Perry Dane (Rutgers-Camden), who will be posting with us as a guest here at CLR Forum. Perry has written landmark articles on choice of law, religion and law, the jurisprudence of Jewish law, legal pluralism, and jurisdiction. In fact, his recent piece on the contraception mandate appears at #1 on this week’s Top Five List. He’s also a member of religiousleftlaw blog. Perry will be joining us later in the fall, but will get a head start with one or two posts this month. Welcome, Perry!

The Top Five New Law & Religion Papers on SSRN

From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five.  Since last week, Helen Alvare has been replaced by Perry Dane at #1, Dwight Newman has moved up t0 #2, replacing Michael Perry, Douglas Laycock joins the list at #3, Elizabeth Sepper remains at #4, and Richard Garnett joins the list at #5 replacing Steven Smith & Caroline Corbin’s exchange.

1. Doctrine and Deep Structure in the Contraception Mandate Debate by Perry Dane (Rutgers, School of Law) [201 downloads]

2. On the Trinity Western University Controversy: An Argument for a Christian Law School in Canada by Dwight G. Newman (U. of Saskatchewan, College of Law) [160 downloads]

3. Religious Liberty and the Culture Wars  by Douglas Laycock (U. of Virginia, School of Law) [138 downloads]

4. Contraception and the Birth of Corporate Conscience  by Elizabeth Sepper (Washington U., School of Law [119 downloads]

5. ‘The Freedom of the Church’: (Towards) an Exposition, Translation, and Defense by Richard W. Garnett (Notre Dame Law School)  [94 downloads]