Egyptian Copts: Continuing Violence and Conditional Hope

Bishop-General Macarius, a Coptic Orthodox leader, walks around the burnt and damaged Evangelical Church in Minya governorate
(REUTERS/Louafi Larbi)

Egyptian Christians continue to offer overwhelming support to the current president. Following removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, Copts are inclined to overlook economic challenges and human rights infringements as they with many Egyptians appreciate Egypt’s relative regional stability. Public rhetoric esteems Christians as equal citizens as the president challenges Muslims to remove sectarianism and extremism from traditional Islamic discourse.

But this does not mean all is well. Inherited patterns continue, especially in rural and less developed areas. Middle East Concern chronicles the recent past:

On 20th May several Christian homes were attacked in al-Karam village in Minya province, as a result of a rumour about a relationship between a Muslim woman and a Christian man. During the attack the man’s mother was attacked and publicly stripped of her clothes. The woman is around 70 years old. Of the 16 people arrested for the assault, 11 were released on bail this week (three on 27th June and eight on 28th June).

On 9th June in Damshir village in Minya province four Muslims armed with knives attacked a Coptic man and his family. They alleged that construction work he was doing was intended to build a church and they threatened him and told him to leave the village. After he filed a complaint the four men were detained, but the authorities told him to stop the construction work.

On 10th June a man attacked a nun at a medical centre run by the Coptic Orthodox Church in the town of Biba in Beni Suef province. When a guard tried to help the nun he was also attacked. Later the same day the attacker returned, armed with a knife. The guard managed to lock the man out of the centre. A complaint was filed with the police, but no action has been taken so far.

On 17th June a mob of a few thousand people gathered at the house of a Copt in al-Bayda village near Alexandria, after prayers had been held at the mosque. They shouted that they would not allow a church in the village and accused him of turning the building which contains his apartment into a church. Several Coptic homes were attacked, two were seriously damaged and at least ten were looted.

On 29th June in Kom al-Loufy village in Minya province four houses belonging to Copts were set on fire after a rumour spread that two brothers were constructing a church. After the rumour started the police asked the brothers to sign a statement saying that the building they were constructing on their land was for residential purposes, however their homes and the homes of others were attacked nevertheless.

On 30th June Father Raphael Moussa was killed in Arish in Northern Sinai. Father Raphael was the parish priest of St George’s church. He was shot by several perpetrators on his way back from a church service. The Egyptian branch of the so-called “Islamic State” movement has claimed responsibility for the murder, and has threatened to carry out more killings.

But Middle East Concern also highlights possible measures that may move positive public rhetoric into written law:

In addition to these events there are currently four debates in the Egyptian parliament that could have an impact on Christian communities. These discussions include:

* possible amendments to legislation on blasphemy

* draft legislation to regulate personal status law for Christian communities

* draft legislation to regulate church construction

* two draft bills on equal citizenship for all and countering discrimination (including discrimination on the grounds of religion)

There is always work to be done. Right or wrong, Copts appreciate the trajectory of their nation but hope for better social and legal standing. This legislative term will be telling, ultimately judged over the current and coming generations.






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