A faith under attack in Egypt - and in Canada

An Egyptian Coptic church in British Columbia is burned down, and no one seems bothered by this.

A house of worship frequented primarily by immigrants from the Middle East was burned to the ground by a white person recently. And chances are, you never heard anything about it:

A congregation and community are in shock after an early-morning fire destroyed Surrey’s St. George Coptic Orthodox Church on Monday. The blaze broke out around 3:30 a.m. at the church located at 13905 108 Ave in the Whalley neighbourhood.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Surrey RCMP said it is being treated as “suspicious.” The St. George Coptic Orthodox Church was also the target of an attempted arson just last Wednesday, although authorities do not know if the two incidents are connected.

In the first arson attempt, surveillance video showed that at approximately 2:33 a.m. on July 14, a woman lit items on fire at the door of the church before leaving the area.

[…]

Khalil expressed disappointment that neither provincial nor federal leaders had yet spoken out about the fire. “It hurts to see no word from the government. I’m very, very much hoping for at least a statement from the premier to condemn what is happening.”

“We are the Copts, which is the Indigenous group of Egypt,” said Khalil, whose family immigrated to Canada some 30 years ago. “We love the community and the country we live in.”

The majority of Copts are Orthodox Christians, and make up the largest ethno-religious minority in Egypt, a country that is ranked No. 16 on the Open Doors 2021 World Watch List of nations for its treatment of Christians.

The suspect is described as “a Caucasian woman, 5’7” tall, with a heavy-set build, and dark hair.” I guess that rules out the former head of the BC Civil Liberties Association, at least for now.

We don’t know for sure why this person set the church on fire, - for all we know, a leprechaun might have told her to burn things - but the consensus on Twitter (uh oh) seems to be that it’s the Copts’ own fault for running residential schools for First Nations children. That they never actually ran residential schools for First Nations children is an unimportant detail that shouldn’t distract us from the major issues here.

Seriously, check out the responses to this tweet from Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, as of this writing the only major Canadian political party leader to so much as utter a peep about this. Tweet after tweet saying it serves these Catholics right:

There are some other tweets from people pointing out that this wasn’t a Catholic Church.

The Copts are originally from Egypt, which might not be the worst place in the world to be a Christian, but despite some recent improvements, they remain very much second-class citizens:

Persecution against Christians in Egypt happens mostly at the community level. Incidents occur most frequently in Upper Egypt, where Salafist movements exert a strong influence on the rural communities due to high levels of illiteracy and poverty. Incidents may vary from Christian women being harassed while walking in the street, to Christian communities being driven out of their homes by extremist mobs.

Al-Azhar University, one of the most influential Islamic universities in the world, has a prominent place in Egyptian society and even in the constitution. The university’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb has clearly stated that there is no place in Islam for Muslims to convert to Christianity.

Although Egypt’s government speaks positively about Egypt’s Christian community, the lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, especially in Upper Egypt. Due to the dictatorial nature of the regime, neither church leaders nor other Christians are in a position to speak out against these practices.

Furthermore, in contrast to how mosques and Islamic organizations are dealt with, churches and Christian non-governmental organizations are restricted in their ability to build new churches or running social services. Christians of all backgrounds face difficulties in finding new places for communal worship. The difficulties come both from state restrictions, as well as from communal hostility and mob violence.

Christians from a Muslim background often have great difficulty in living out their faith since they face enormous pressure from their families to return to Islam. The state also makes it impossible for them to get any official recognition of their conversion.

They left Egypt for Canada where they could practice their faith in peace, only to be told that they’re oppressors who deserve to have their churches destroyed because of what completely different Christian denominations did. And they aren’t the first minority or immigrant denomination to have their church caught up in Canada’s summer of righteous arson. (Which indigenous leaders have overwhelmingly condemned, for what it’s worth.)

Christianity, particularly in the form of Canada’s “mainline” denominations of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Churches, have had outsized influence in Canadian society, culture and politics. That power has often been abused, as the horrors of Residential Schools show all too well.

That has caused many Canadians to assume Christianity is an oppressors’ religion, used by the elite to lord over those who practice different faiths, or none at all. And they extend this belief to encompass the entire world, never mind that the position of Christianity in many other countries - such as Egypt - is very different indeed.

By the time you read this, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh might have been embarrassed into saying something about this apparent hate crime. Maybe. So far, though, the message sent to immigrant Christians is that their faith is a distraction at best and a legitimate target at worst.


The underwhelming box-office performance of Black Widow has some wondering if Marvel Fatigue might finally be setting in:

Maybe it’s the model. Or maybe it’s Marvel.

Disney’s highly anticipated Marvel film “Black Widow” suffered a brutal blow at the box office this weekend, falling 67 percent compared to its opening weekend and dashing hopes at the company for a July hit.

Potentially even more worrisome for Disney is that the poor numbers may not have been solely the result of its decision to make the movie available simultaneously for $30 on Disney Plus: It could be that consumers don’t want to pay for Marvel content in the numbers they once did, no matter the venue.

If true, it would imperil the most lucrative movie universe of all time at precisely the post-pandemic moment movie theaters need it most and throw Marvel’s larger financial future into question along with it.

[…]

The MCU unofficially kicked off with Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” in 2008, when Marvel’s movies were being distributed by Paramount. It reached an early apex with Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” in 2012, several years after Disney acquired Marvel, as audiences took to the world’s sprawling mythology and high stakes combined with intimate quips and personal drama. Under Feige, the MCU in the years since has spawned one global hit after another, creating legions of fans and lining the pockets of Disney, its shareholders and movie-theater owners.

Few doubted the ability of Feige to continue that mojo even after “Avengers: Endgame” appeared to cap a long and winding story, and even though many profitable franchises, such as Disney’s own Star Wars, eventually came upon creative bumps and consumer fatigue.

But the pandemic pause — and the subsequent geyser of Marvel content on Disney Plus — may have damaged those hopes. An MCU bounty has been available for free to the more than 100 million Disney Plus subscribers over the past six months, with shows such as “Loki,” “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” debuting. Disney leaders have aimed to attract as many people as possible to its service with high-value content. But in the process they may have done something else — conditioned consumers to the idea that Marvel material is not something to be paid extra for.

Some analysts said they think consumer mind-set may have indeed played a role in the “Black Widow” underperformance, but for a different reason: By making the movie available for digital purchase right away, Disney compressed a schedule and deterred consumers.

“I think what this shows is that if you’re making a movie available quickly for free on streaming, people will just wait,” said Alicia Reese, an equity-research analyst at investment firm Wedbush Securities who closely follows the theatrical industry. “If Disney goes back to the traditional model, I think people will be less patient and come back to the theater.” “Black Widow” will be available on Disney Plus just three months after its release, a quicker turnaround than many other films. (Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” waited a long eight months.) “Shang-Chi” will follow a more traditional slow pattern: a 45-day wait for digital sales before eventual availability on other platforms.

I want to see Black Widow, but I am not willing to shell out twenty-five bucks for the privilege when it will be included with my Disney+ subscription before too long. And that will give me three months to catch up on the movies I haven’t yet seen, and the Netflix shows, and the ABC shows, and Loki, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and MODOK, and…


Dammit, Justin Fields, stop getting my hopes up like this. Having lived through a procession of adequate, forgettable and occasionally regrettable caretaker Chicago Bears quarterbacks, I just know that fate will punch me in the gut once again if I start planning out the Super Bowl parade in my mind.

Last month a Chicago resident named Scott Morrow was walking down the street when he suddenly felt a sharp pain and collapsed to the ground. He had been shot in the back and was now in a fight for his life, but as he rode in an ambulance to a nearby hospital, he was inspired by the thought of Justin Fields.

That might just be the most Chicago paragraph I’ve ever read.

A lifelong Bears fan, Morrow thinks Fields has what it takes to be the best quarterback Morrow has ever cheered for, and he wants to live long enough for it to happen.

“Within a couple moments, I thought well, I’m 41, pretty much all of Chicago has gone our whole lives without even having great prospects for a franchise quarterback, I can’t die before seeing Justin Fields take the field,” Morrow said on 670 The Score. “I don’t plan to die before he’s a Hall of Famer.”

When Fields heard about that, he decided to pay Morrow a visit while he recuperates. Morrow documented it on Twitter.