Eyes blazing, body tensing, mood darkening – he leans across the table and voices his worries: "No one cares. No one is listening. No one is helping the Coptic Orthodox Christians living in Egypt." He then slumps in his seat and surveys his surroundings.
The café is buzzing with movement. It is lunchtime in Sydney's central business district, and many office workers are darting around the place. Although a few have come for a quick meal, the majority are lined up for an espresso – a caffeine fix to help them through the sluggish afternoon. But Ramy Christopher Tadros, author of The War of the Words: Oppression, Egypt's Copts, and the State, barely notices the sandwich sitting on the table in front of him. And his caffè latte is already lukewarm. He has bigger worries than the slow-afternoon office syndrome. He is here to discuss the worsening treatment of Egypt's Christian minority.
"The main problem," says Tadros, his gaze intensifying and the fire rekindling his spirit, "is that the world doesn't even know there are Christians living in Egypt. How many people, picked randomly from the streets of any Western city, have heard of Egypt's Copts?"
He pauses before answering his own question: "Close to none. Hardly anyone knows of the Copts or the daily discrimination and persecution they face in Egypt. And the Western media and governments generally don't care."
Despite the surrounding café chit-chat, his words are sobering. Life may be good here in Sydney, Australia, but on the other side of the planet a Christian minority is suffering at the hands of a Muslim majority. Coptic girls are being abducted every week. Churches are being routinely torched. And Christians are even being terrorised. The most recent terrorist bombing happened at the Saints Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, during a New Year's service on 1 January 2011. Twenty-three Copts died and dozens were injured.
These crimes, at the hands of the Muslim majority, are just the beginning. But when a state commits the violence, then government has violated its primary duty. The libertarian political economist Frédéric Bastiat summed up this sentiment in one sentence: "Among the services that we demand of the state, the chief is security." And Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, said, "All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle: that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."
Yet the Egyptian State, whose charge is to protect the Christian minority (roughly 10 per cent of Egypt's population) from the Muslim majority, has been wilfully failing to uphold its duty of care. Even more disturbing, the Egyptian State has been actively engaging in its own atrocities against Egypt's Christians. For instance, on 9 October 2011, at least 26 Copts were murdered and more than 300 were injured in downtown Cairo in what became known as the Maspero Massacre – a bloodbath coordinated by the Egyptian State and its armed forces. But this is just one example taken from an ever-lengthening list of offences that the Egyptian State is continuing to inflict on its minorities.
To counter these evils, people like Tadros are speaking out on behalf of their shackled brothers and sisters still living in Egypt. Perhaps Jefferson's saying captures the essence of such activism: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." And, in this spirit, the voice of good conscience has stirred Tadros to shatter the silence.
"The Coptic Orthodox Christians are the original people of Egypt. They are the true descendants of the Ancient Egyptians," Tadros says before he swigs the last mouthful of what, by now, must be a cold caffè latte. "Once were Pharaohs, now the Copts are subjugated in their own homeland—and this has been happening since the Muslim conquest of Egypt (639–642 AD)."
Tadros then displays a CNN article on his smartphone: "Extremist calls for destruction of Egyptian antiquities". It is a recent piece written by Ben Wedemen on 13 November 2012.
Pointing to the smartphone as evidence, Tadros says, "Today, there are even Islamist whispers demanding the destruction of Ancient Egyptian monuments: the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and all pharaonic artefacts. If the extremists can wipe out Egypt's history – its Ancient Egyptian and Coptic history – then perhaps they can obliterate all traces of its original people."
Perhaps. Perhaps not. It all depends on whether people of good conscience remain silent or take a stand against tyranny.
Will the Coptic Orthodox Christians continue to suffer in silence? Or shall the world hear their story?
Ramy Christopher Tadros has researched and written parliamentary documents for various Australian Commonwealth Government departments. He now writes and edits nonfiction for a living. Being part Coptic, his clients include Coptic human rights groups.
Tadros also teaches writing and editing courses at Sydney Community College and is the director of Proton Writing Consultants Pty Ltd, an Australian-based writing, editing, and publishing company.
Although Tadros likes playing with words and styling suave sentences, he also enjoys politics and economics and is pursuing postgraduate research in political economy. But, come to think of it, politics and economics are still connected with word play.