Vicious attacks escalate on Egypt's Christian minorities

By staff writers
August 16, 2013

As revulsion over 500 deaths inflicted on pro-Moris protesters by the Egyptian security forces spreads, concern is also increasing over the plight of the country's Christians and other minorities.

Christians constitute up to 8 million from Egypt's population of 80 million, and many have been under pressure for years.

Violence and hate speech targeting religious minorities increased under former President Morsi, but since his removal from power, attacks on the Coptic community in particular have increased sharply.

These have occurred primarily, but not exclusively, in Upper Egypt, following allegations spread by hardline groups that Christians played a pivotal role in the removal of Morsi's regime.

On 7 August 20133, a coalition of 16 Egyptian human rights organisations issued a statement expressing "grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the 30 June uprising."

They denounced the "continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence, which have been seen in several governorates to account."

In a statement issued two days ago, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, declared, "Egypt cannot move forward while state apparatus does not hold people accountable for these unlawful hate crimes that stand to divide the country further, promoting increased polarisation at every level."

He went on: "Proactive efforts must be made towards promoting social cohesion and inclusion for all members of society so that this new phase of Egyptian history can be built upon true unity, collaboration, and reconciliation."

There is a link, say analysts, between the crackdown on Morsi supporters and the actions of some of his supporters, and those to the right of the ex-president in turning their ire on Christians of all denominations.

Church buildings and monasteries have been set on fire, with many burned to the ground. These include the Church of the Virgin Mary in Minya, which dates back to the fourth century.

Last week, a 10-year-old girl from a Christian family was shot dead on the way home from church.

Attacks on Coptic property across nine provinces in Egypt have been "causing panic, losses and destruction for no reason and no crimes they committed except being Christians," the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic activist group, stated today.

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has called upon all Egyptians to prevent bloodshed as tensions escalate and some now fear the outbreak of civil war.

"With all compassion I urge everyone to conserve Egyptian blood and ask of every Egyptian to commit to self-restraint and avoid recklessness and assault on any person or property," Pope Tawadros tweeted earlier this week.

[Ekk/3]

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