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A good defense against terrorist hate

Shift in thought

As Islamic State loses ground, it seeks a base in Egypt. A branch there has lately killed dozens of Christians in an attempt to rally Muslims to its side. But the tactic has failed. Muslims instead are coming to the aid of Christians.

Christian children who fled from Sinai in Feburary after the escalation of a campaign targeting Christians by Islamic State militants play at a guest house in Ismailia, northeast of Cairo, Egypt.
Reuters
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  • The Monitor's Editorial Board

As Islamic State loses its base in Iraq and Syria, its followers are taking territory elsewhere. One place is Egypt, which could provide the militant group with greater access to Africa. Since December, an ISIS-affiliated group in Egypt has adopted a tactic aimed at rallying Egypt’s Muslims to its side: It is killing Christians, which make up 10 percent of the population. There’s just one problem. Many of the country’s Muslims are coming to the aid of wounded or fleeing Christians, even housing them.

Violence is not new to Egypt’s Coptic Christians. They often have conflicts with hard-core Islamists. The latest are the recent attacks by the ISIS-affiliated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) in Cairo and Sinai. About 40 Christians have been killed. Hundreds more have been forced to flee.

But one reason Christian groups in Egypt have survived for centuries is that they often react with forgiveness toward their tormentors. They do, of course, seek more security and justice from the government. But their gracious response to violence has helped to disarm hostility and open a dialogue between faiths.

Both ISIS and Al Qaeda, on the other hand, thrive on sectarian tensions, be it between Christian and Muslim or between Muslim sects. The tension helps bring fresh recruits. And if the tension doesn’t exist, the terrorists will try to stoke it with violence. The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, for example, bombed a church in Cairo in December and carried out systematic executions of Christian men in northern Sinai over recent weeks.

Such attacks seem to have faded for now, perhaps because the group didn’t get the response it wanted. It was up against the armor of mutual respect, even affection at times, between Christians and Muslims. What better defense can there be against terrorist hate?