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Opinion: Minorities need special protection

The fatal bombing of a church in Egypt has been condemned all over the world - also by Muslim authorities. But DW's Rainer Sollich, head of DW's Africa and Middle East Program, says condemnations are not enough.

symbol picture Opinion

Muslim authorities found clear words for the deadly attack. It wasn't only the most senior imams in Egypt who condemned the attack on the Coptic Christian community. The opposition organization Muslim Brotherhood also distanced itself from the terrorist attack as well as the top religious leader in Saudi Arabia and numerous other Arabic politicians.

It is noteworthy that representatives of Muslims in Germany also took a clear line: "Whoever harms people in such a back-stabbing and cruel way cannot refer back to any kind of religion or ideology," the Muslim Coordination Council unmistakably stated.

This is an important signal against violence and a signal for solidarity among Christians and Muslims - particulary since the Coptic exile community in Germany fears attacks and points to police reports that support its concerns.

It is annoying that some German politicians missed this signal and summon Muslims to do something they have already done. However, demands from Germany and other Western countries for a better protection of Christians in the Middle East are entirely justified.

Christianity and other minorities are threatened

The situation of Christian minorities in a variety of countries and systems such as Egypt, Iraq and the Palestinian territories is indeed hard to compare. But Christianity is on the wane everywhere and - as well as many other minorities in the region - in the long run, its existence indeed threatened. Measures combating these tendencies are hard to find.

Rainer Sollich

Christians and other minorities are under threat, says Rainer Sollich

That a country like Saudi Arabia punishes the very possession of a bible is by no means acceptable and by no means a theoretical problem - it's blatant discrimination of workers coming from Christian countries.

Long-established Christians in Egypt and other Arabic countries don't suffer from such fundamental discrimination. But they are often disadvantaged by the ruling elites and are not sufficiently protected against fanatic violent offenders.

In Iraq, the situation is particularly drastic, since a majority of Christians was forced to flee or was expelled after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But now the Egyptian government is being accused of taking the protection of Western tourists visiting pyramids and beaches more seriously than the protection of its Christian citizens.

Sufficient security measures for threatened minorities are generally necessary in case of emergencies. Regardless of whether Christians, Muslims or other religious groups are affected, minorities always deserve special state protection.

Call on governments and social elites

But security measures are not a cure-all. It's more important that governments and social elites - if nothing else the media - lobby for a public climate where extremists don't stand a chance of spreading instability and fear by launching terrorist attacks and divide people by religious or ethnic aspects.

Because that is precisely their goal. And they have come dangerously close to achieving that goal in Egypt.

Author: Rainer Sollich, head of DW's Africa and Middle East Program / sst
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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