Christians persecuted in Iraq . . . Christian clergy murdered in Indonesia . . . churches destroyed in the Sudan. Around the world, stories of anti-Christian abuse and violence mount up, and are usually presented as irrefutable evidence of the violence of Islam. And somewhere in the accounts of persecution we are likely to hear more bad news out of Egypt—stories of Coptic Christians perishing in mob violence or falling victim to random assassinations by Islamist extremists.
There is no reason to question the truth of these ac counts, or to doubt the grave dangers facing Egypt’s Chris tians. But before consigning Egypt’s story to the general category of the Evils of Islam, it pays us to look more closely at the church that is under assault, and just how complex and subtle—and often how benevolent—have been its interactions with its Muslim neighbors. Egypt deserves far more attention than simply as just another item in a litany of horrors.
Philip Jenkins teaches at Penn State and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is the author of The Great and Holy War and The Many Faces of Christ.