Could the troubled Catholic Church, which you so often criticize, learn from the Coptic Christians?
Yes, that it could: namely, that one must proclaim the Faith, instead of hiding one's cross on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, like Cardinal Marx did - a Copt could not do that, because he has his cross tattooed on the back of his hand, between his thumb and forefinger. The Jews were forced to wear the Star [of David] in Germany, the Copt fashions himself his own cross.
Whilst working there, did you ask yourself how you would behave, if you found yourself in such a situation?
But of course one asks oneself the question. I realized that this is a challenge I too would have to face. Whether I would live up to it is another matter.
What role does Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when it comes to the Copts and religious conflicts in general?
This man is not to be envied for his office.
Are you being serious?
He ousted the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood representative, President Mursi, now there is a military dictatorship and, among the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, seething rage over this act of violence against a democratically elected head of state. This anger is also directed against the Copts, many of whom of course do rely on the dictatorship, since Mursi wanted to largely deprive them of their rights.
That sounds like Sisi is the lesser evil for the Copts.
Yes, but he makes himself the mortal enemy of a large part of his own people. For example, in the village of El-Or, the construction of a cathedral for the Copts was personally promoted by Sisi himself. He also personally attends mass at Christmas, Easter, as well as requiems. He is trying to stabilize things, trying to keep a lid on this explosive pressure cooker.
You are likely to draw criticism from conservatives that your book avoids pointing out the perpetrators clearly enough, given how it eschews the "Islamic State" stereotype.
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Islamism was less interesting to me in this particular case. What mattered to me was the role of martyrdom. It is inseparable from the Christian message.
Anian Christoph Wimmer translated this interview from German.