Help the Coptic Christians

I was driving home one evening and lined along the sidewalk were about 25 protestors. As I stopped at the red light I caught a glimpse of their signs. “Help the Coptic Christians of Egypt” was written on one banner held by a young woman. “Call Congress” was written on another as a girl chimed a triangle instrument.

The Arab Spring has written itself into history, and it will undoubtedly become a term that future students will have to memorize and regurgitate for midterms. While some news pundits and world leaders applauded the revolutions as symbols of change in the Middle East, others watched with a raised brow skeptical of this so-called change.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down after thirty years, and in his place the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took charge. Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo covering every square inch with a screaming, arm-waving revolutionist.

For this brief second, Christian and Muslim sentiments were moot; only the victory over oppression was relevant. Unfortunately, the same mob that the Coptic Christians cheered beside will be the same mob burning down their churches, and the SCAF, which is meant to be a de facto government, will be accused of disrupting Coptic demonstrations and killing protestors. Yet it would not be fair to wave off Egypt as another Iran. Revolutions seem to follow a hypocritical path that is far from predictable.

The year is 1782 and just like the Egyptians, colonial farmers and the blue-uniformed patriots are cheering through the streets, burning King George III in effigy. The thirteen U.S. colonies have defeated the British. Soon the founders will sign the Constitution, the people will have their Bill of Rights and everyone will remember forever that “All men are created equal.”

Unless, of course, you were a black slave or a woman in which case the revolution was actually an exchange of one tyrannical white man with a funny accent, for a group of tyrannical white men with a more familiar accent.

And then there was India, who, in 1947 gained their independence from the British. Muslims and Hindus in India at that time then engaged in a similar violence that the Egyptians had engaged with the Coptic Christians, and the result was a partition into two states, Pakistan and India.

A staggering 12 million people would migrate between India and Pakistan. Muslims didn’t want to be stuck in India, a predominately Hindu nation, and vice-versa for the Hindus living in the Pakistan. Presently, the mass migration does not seem so drastic since Muslims living in India are poorer, in worse health, earn less and are more likely to be victims of violence than their Hindu brethren.

And lastly we have the French, who were not seeking independence from Britain, but rather freeing themselves from elitist oppression. King Louis XVI was executed and Queen Marie Antoinette would be put on trial for many charges, one being a molestation charge that turned out to be false. The new French Republic would execute approximately 30,000 people for dissent, and they would impose sanctions on the Roman Catholic Church. The new government wanted to replace church and God.

Every revolution waves the freedom banner and everyone chants some kind of phrase that unites the masses. For the United States, it was, “No taxation without representation;” for the French, “Let them eat cake.” I don’t know too much about Indian history but I’m sure they had one as well. But beyond the patriotic fervor lies the shaky beginning of people grasping for change.

The Egyptian revolution may or may not bring the equality that some Egyptians are hoping, but what is apparent is that Egypt’s revolution is far from over.

Nidia Sandoval is a third-year history major. She can be reached at nidias@uci.edu.