When Egypt killed the pigs, it undermined a way of life

Pigs are not to blame for the so-called swine flu, which in any case has not found this hilltop slum, but trucks flanked by armed police have come anyway and hauled them away. Raised by Coptic Christian garbage collectors who fattened them with trash and sold them to non-Muslim butchers, the animals are among the 300,000 pigs the government has ordered to be corralled and killed. Their silence means that what scant prosperity there was amid these cliffs has vanished.

“How will I feed my children now? I’ve lost 70% of my income,” says Ramzi Shawki, whose 120 pigs lived in a pen next to his house until they were driven away, sprinkled with lime and buried in trenches. “Our pigs are not sick. I can hold them in my arms. I’m 41 years old. I was born into collecting garbage and raising pigs. I’ve never been infected. But whoever doesn’t give up their pigs gets arrested.”

Up this hill, where garbage from the city below is delivered in endless strands and clumps, poor men get poorer in the neighborhoods of the zabaleen. They are Cairo’s trash collectors, tens of thousands of them, whose homes abut tiny dumps that have turned refuse into a way of life. But the swine flu scare, global economic collapses, tumbling recycling prices, all the indiscernible errors of biology and stock markets, reach deep into a man’s wallet here.

“The government gave me 2,500 pounds for my animals” – about $450 – says Shawki, “but they were worth 18,000 pounds.”

The men around him shake their heads. The same math has befallen each of them. They sit half in the shade, half in the sun, their trucks parked, their sacks tossed aside. There are crosses etched on the walls, and the men speak of God the way men do when the world and their own hands have failed them. They’ve been out all morning, up at 4, some lucky enough to have contracts with the tourist hotels, but that garbage has gotten lighter, as if even rich people these days are eating everything on their plates and are not so quick to throw away things that could be fixed.


Dale: I do not understand the question here. This is a news story and not a discussion point. If it is something else, please open my eyes. Anthony

I think the point is father down in the article…

. Raised by Coptic Christian garbage collectors who fattened them with trash and sold them to non-Muslim butchers, the animals are among the 300,000 pigs the government has ordered to be corralled and killed…

"The government gave me 2,500 pounds for my animals" – about $450 – says Shawki, “but they were worth 18,000 pounds.”

A picture of Jesus hangs on the alley wall next to him. Farther down, toward the base of the hill, there are mosques and minarets. The call to prayer echoes along these cliffs, but Daoud and the other men live in a pocket of saints and crosses. It is best not to speak too forcefully about religion, but the men believe the Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt’s population, are discriminated against and that the killing of their pigs is another affront to their faith.

The pigs are not sick and most countries have not ordered the slaughter of all their pigs because of swine flu. Usually they are tested first to see if there is a problem but not in a land where Christian are hated and the only ones that raise pigs.

I posted the article because I was touched by the hardness of their lives, and the fact that the Egyptian government’s action has made their existence much harder. I guess I didn’t have a point beyond that. I just wanted others here to be aware of their plight.

The story is one more narrative in the ongoing difficulties which the Coptic Christians face in Egypt. I guess I wanted to remind people of that as well.

Thanks. And this is also another story about persecuted Christians throughout the world. See the Catholic Answers radio show about Chinese Catholics.

Would you happen to have a link to that show? Christians in the PRC are still oppressed, although not as badly as in previous decades. And I know that Catholics have a special dilemma in that the government has created a parallel Catholic Church, which is “Patriotic” and does not follow Rome.

It is hard to see this as anything else but another example of enforcing dhimmitude on Egypt’s Christian minority

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