Posts Tagged ‘Coptic Christians’

Letter from the Train, returning… Passover arrives and Tillerson departs…

April 10, 2017

The train is rumbling north from Baltimore to New York City where I change trains to Hudson, arriving there around 3:30 this afternoon.  It is a sunny day and the fleece pullover and winter jacket needed on the way down are unnecessary on the way home.

Hudson River

As I travel north, I have trimmed down the email inbox, sent some electronic Passover cards and started reading how to make large quantities of scrambled eggs as this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday and I am in charge of preparing the Easter Brunch that follows the 10:30 service.

It’s my hope that Mother Eileen’s clipboard filled with some people to help me. If not…

The weekend visit with Lionel and Pierre and Marcel, the poodle, was wonderful, overflowing with good food at various venues:  Modern Cook Shop, Peter’s Inn, Red Star, Rusty Scupper, Nanimi, Petit Louis.


On “The Avenue” [36th Street] I shopped the antique stores and found some Christmas presents, tucked in my luggage; that it is expandable saved me from buying another piece.  At BJ’s with Pierre, I stocked up on Excedrin, Prilosec and more.

Long train rides give one a time to think and I enjoy them for that, for being able to see the countryside glide by without the responsibility of driving.

Pierre sings in the choir at the Church of the Advent in Baltimore.  While Lionel and I were preparing to go to hear him at church, the television flashed pictures and video of the Palm Sunday explosions in Egypt, targeting Coptic Christians, who represent about ten percent of that country’s population.  Last word I heard, forty-seven have died and scores are injured.  At Christ Church this week, I will light a candle for them.

In response to the bombings, responsibility for which was claimed by IS, Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency.

Rex Tillerson, our low-profile Secretary of State, heads to Moscow for meetings, either strengthened or weakened [depending on your view] by the US bombing of the airfield in Syria where chemical attacks against a rebel city were initiated.  Tillerson called the Russians incompetent for allowing Assad to keep chemical weapons.

Putin is thinking of revoking the award he gave to Tillerson.

This should be an interesting week for watching Syrian affairs.  How are they all going to react?  Niki Hailey is talking regime change; Tillerson is not. Trump is unpredictable and Putin a risk taker; Assad seemingly a wily survivor who managed to turn peaceful protests into a civil war no one seems capable of winning or willing to negotiate an end.

Syria is bringing five questions about the situation to the head, outlined in an article in Bloomberg, available here.

We have ships moving toward the Korean peninsula, possibly to be in place in case there is a decision to attack North Korea and its pudgy, vindictive, unpredictable little dictator, Kim Jong Un.

President Xi of China and Trump managed to get through their summit without damaging each other and we will await to see what China will do vis-à-vis North Korea.

In 2013, Democrats used the “nuclear option” and McConnell said they would live to regret it, which they did last week when Gorsuch was successfully nominated to the Supreme Court and sworn in this morning.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right French candidate for president, has declared that France was NOT responsible for the deportation of Jews during WWII, a statement that has created, as one might imagine, more than a soupcon of controversy.

New York is the first state offering free four-year public college to its students in families with incomes under $100,000, a move to help residents avoid crushing college loans and to help the state have a work force ready for the future.

May it work.

For all my friends celebrating Passover tonight, Chaq Kasher veSameach! [Happy Passover!]

Letter From New York 02 16 15 A call to be better…

February 17, 2015

As the sun is setting, I am traveling on a train south to New York. After two days of brutal cold, the temperature is edging up into what feels reasonable, 24 degrees. The same brutal cold that forced me to leave the cold-water tap running for two days in my kitchen, has also hobbled train service along the Empire corridor, from New York City to Albany.

Trains were frozen this morning in Sunnyside yards and couldn’t make it into Penn Station for their appointed runs. Trains going south earlier today were delayed. Mine was on time but it is oversold and unhappy people are standing in the aisles. The conductor has suggested they call 1-800-USA-RAIL to vent their complaints rather than inflicting them upon her.

Battered Boston is in for more snow and cold; already they have had nearly double the normal amount of snowfall.

Europe is complaining about the intransigence of Greece in refusing to stick to the terms of the bailout. The Greeks are demanding new terms and Europe, so far, is unbending. Neither side has blinked. Markets have rallied but are edgy about what is happening.

In Italy, Michele Ferrero, he of the family who gave us Nutella, and Italy’s wealthiest man, has passed away. I will never again have a Nutella crepe without thinking of him.

Also, in Italy, there is talk of the Italians leading a coalition to oppose ISIS. In the video that shows the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya, the spokesman for ISIS points across the sea, threatening to take Rome. The place where the beheadings took place is 520 miles from Italy.

Boatloads of refugees have been crossing the Mediterranean for months now, looking for a better life in Europe. What is to stop boatloads of terrorists? The UN Security Council is to take up the question of ISIS in Libya soon.

It is now a bit awkward to call them ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] since they now claim to have a province in Libya and have demonstrated better coordination between regions than the West believed was possible.

The Egyptians, who’s Coptic Christians were slaughtered, has launched a second set of air strikes against the Islamic State in Libya. It is not waiting for the United Nations. They are taking things into their own hands for now. And they are taking steps to evacuate other Coptic Christians through Tunisia.

IS has managed to do something which has been difficult to do until now and that is to get Muslim nations to join in a chorus of horror at their actions. The burning of the Jordanian pilot and now the beheading of the Coptic Christians has solidified the anger of some Muslims against IS.

Egypt, which is rising to the defense of its Coptic Christians, has often exhibited its own oppression of them by tolerating discrimination against them.

In France, five teenagers have been arrested, suspected of defiling 300 Jewish graves. It caused a wave of fear in France and resulted in President Hollande encouraging French Jews to remain in France. One of the boys turned himself in when he saw the enormous reaction to his deeds. He claimed he had no anti-Semitic intentions.

France is very concerned; anti-Semitic acts more than doubled last year from the year before, as they are rising all over Europe.

In Denmark, thousands marched today following the deaths of two there. One man was an accomplished documentarian who was attending a seminar that was also attended by the cartoonist, Lars Vik, who has been under police protection since 2007 when his cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed was published and assumed to have been the target. The other was a young Jewish man acting as security at Copenhagen’s main synagogue during a Bat Mitzvah.

In Europe, both anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia rise. I have struggled how to end today’s post. Could I find a way to loop back to some pleasant event in my life? But I can’t; I am caught thinking of the Coptic Christians who died because they were Christian and of the young Jewish man in Copenhagen who died because he was Jewish. I think of the Shia who are killed by the Sunnis and the Sunnis who are killed by the Shia.

It would be trite to say there are no easy answers. What all this does, it seems to me, is to call us all to be better, in our lives and in our support of the oppressed, in facing the complex issues that are the background of our lives.

Letter From New York 02 15 15 During the blistering cold…

February 15, 2015

Outside the sun is shining down brilliantly; a bright white light is cast down on the mounds of snow outside my windows. It looks warm and inviting. It is not. The temperature is minus nine, wind chill factor, and will continue to go lower as the day progresses. It is the most brutally cold winter I remember since I have been here and I have commented to many a friend: it’s Minnesota cold.

At times, I have wanted to depart and head to the tropics until it breaks. I dress in layers and my feet are always cold, despite wool socks and boots. But that is the way of this winter. Cold and coldly beautiful, it seems to be one for the record books.

This morning, I rose and went down to Christ Church in Hudson with some friends and then moved on to the Red Dot for brunch. When I left the church, my car was momentarily obscured by the blowing snow. It is that kind of day. While I was out, the driveway was plowed and the walk shoveled, for which I am grateful. Tomorrow I will head down to New York City so I can be in place for an early meeting on Tuesday.

While I organize my week, Denmark is struggling to recover from a young man, freshly out of prison, who killed two and wounded five. It was a bit of a copycat event, modeled after the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris. The supposed target in the first killing was a cartoonist, Lars Vik, who had satirized the Prophet Mohammed back in 2007 and has been under police protection ever since. The second victim was a young Jewish man who was acting as a volunteer security person at a Danish synagogue for a Bat Mitzvah.

In another act of brutality, the Libyan cohorts of ISIS have released a video purportedly showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians. They were singled out for their religion.

It sometimes feels like we are returning to the Middle Ages, when all sorts of heinous acts were justified in the name of religion. Certainly, those who claim allegiance to ISIS seem to be parading medieval characteristics of brutal killing for the sake of religion, not unlike the Christian Crusaders who rampaged through land after land in the late 11th Century, slaughtering Jews after they had paid Bishops for their safety. Eastern Orthodox Christians were also not immune from the wrath of the Crusaders. It was not a pretty time for Christianity and it has only been in the last few centuries that we have begun behaving civilly with each other. Perhaps someday the various branches of Islam will learn to live with each other and with us in a civil manner. But it is certainly not today.

In Ukraine the truce called for last night has slowed but not quelled the violence. Around the city of Debaltseve, a vital rail hub, there is still the sound of shelling. Other areas are seeing relief.

In Nigeria, a sixteen-year-old suicide bomber blew herself up at a crowded bus station, killing mostly children who were selling goods at the station. No one has yet claimed responsibility but it has the earmarks of Boko Haram. How does one get a sixteen-year-old girl to blow herself up?

Moving away from the violence wracking our world, there are rumors that Apple is considering building an electric car. I find this interesting – and not entirely improbable.

While I think I have it difficult with my blistering cold, I am not as unlucky as Boston, which has been hit with more snow and with brutal cold.

As I write this, the sun is beginning to set. Tonight on NBC there will be a 40th Anniversary Celebration of Saturday Night Live. A group of us are gathering to watch the event. It will be quite an event, probably a little raw and ragged at the edges, as the weekly show often is, and also probably full of magic moments, as the show regularly is.