• EGYPT \ Jan 13, 2003
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    Egyptian Copts Support Christian Martyr Operations
Egyptian Copts Support Christian Martyr Operations CAIRO, January 12 (IslamOnline) ? Leaders of Christian sects in Egypt as well as leading Coptic political activists welcomed Archimandrite Attallah Hanna's call on Palestinian and Arab Christians to join hands in carrying out martyr operations against the Israeli occupation forces.

Hanna, spokesman for the Orthodox Church in occupied Jerusalem, asserted that those who carry out martyr operations are not ?suicide bombers? or ?terrorists? as some claim but heroes of the nation standing their ground in defense of their usurped lands.

Catholic Father Johanna Qaltah reiterated support to Hanna's call, but regretted it came so late.

In exclusive statements to IslamOnline Sunday, January 12, he said martyrdom is not a legitimate right but a duty and obligation for all Arab citizens, Muslims or Christians, in defense of their land, honor, dignity and sanctities.

Arabs possess no means to teach the Israeli occupiers a lesson expect such operations, by virtue of which they are not only defending their lands in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but also the existence and survival of Arab generations, especially after Israel gave the cold shoulder to all peace agreements.

Asked why Christians had not joined martyr vanguards yet, Father Qaltah attributed this to two reasons.

First, he said, the martyr operations were initiated and championed by Islamic groups which of course do not include Christians in its ranks.

Second, added Father Qaltah, the fact that Arab Christians have for long taken a low profile because their role in the region has been marginalized for decades.

The Christian cleric called on the Islamic media to distinguish between Western and Eastern Christians.

Eastern Christians belong to the Arab Islamic civilization and will not have a future unless under the Arab Islamic umbrella, he asserted.

Ikram Lamaei, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Anglican Church in Egypt and professor of comparative religion, reiterated unwavering support for Hanna's call.

He, however, urged restricting martyr operations to Israeli military personnel not inside the 1967 borders as some argue but on the whole of Palestine, including the lands occupied in 1948.

Speaking to IslamOnline, he exhorted leading Palestinian factions such as Fatah to groom Christian would-be martyrs and teach them the principle of sacrifice both religiously and nationally.

Lamaei also pressed for forming joint Islamic and Christian martyr groups to send a clear message to the world that Palestinians and Arabs stand united regardless of their religious affiliations.

Reaffirming unconditional support of Christian martyr operations, George Isaac, a political activist, slammed those who press the Palestinians not to target Israeli civilians in their attacks.

They should first see what Israel is doing in Gaza, Rafah, the West Bank and Palestinian camps, he stressed.

Are not those armless civilians? Isaac charged.

Gamal Asad, a former lawmaker, underlined that Palestine would not be liberated without martyr operations, adding that this is the only form of resistance that would bring Israel to its knees.

In statements to IslamOnline, he accused Israel of dodging all peace-making drives.

"We believe that these operations are the key to make real change on the ground and any thing otherwise is nonsense," stressed the former legislator.

Asked why Christians have not joined hands in martyr operations, Asad asserted that the issue has been troubling him personally for long.

"I think this is a continuation of the Arab Christians' negative stances vis-?-vis all issues of concern to the Arab and Islamic nations over the past years," he said.

Asad said this position might have been affected by Zionist infiltration of the Christian creed, asserting that this issue must be scrutinized and accorded due attention.

IslamOnline tried to contact representatives of the Egyptian Orthodox Church and after several unsuccessful attempt finally came in touch with Anba Younis, secretary of Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, who was for sometime to examine Hanna's statements and answer back.