In post-Arab Spring Egypt, Muslim attacks on Christians are rising

NOTE:  The purpose of this site is to draw attention to news items that highlight threats against Muslims in America or evidence of positive interactions between Muslims and Christians worldwide.  Sometimes, however, it is important to point to places in the world where that interaction is not positive to point out why it is crucial that Muslims and Christians work together to build positive relations for the good of all.  This is one of those articles that underscores why interfaith work is so important.

The Christian and Muslim villagers grew up together, played on the same soccer fields as kids, and attended the same schools in this riverside hamlet. But that didn’t matter on a recent day: An argument between boys sparked clashes between neighbors, with Muslims torching shops owned by Christians.

Gamal Sobhy, a Christian farmer, ran into the melee to protect his two sons. Someone in the crowd hit him with a stick. Then others jumped in, striking him repeatedly until he fell to the ground with blood seeping from his head.

“The Muslims were yelling, ‘Kill him, kill him,’ ” Sobhy said a few days after he was released from the hospital.

Five years ago, many among Egypt’s minority Orthodox Coptic Christians thought the discrimination they had long faced from Muslims would begin to disappear when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in Egypt’s revolution and the military seized control of the country.

But in the years since then, as an Islamist government was elected and overthrown, that sense of hope evaporated.

Attacks against Christians have intensified as mistrust between Christians and Muslims deepens. Today, community leaders and human rights activists say the smallest of matters are setting off violence, often pitting neighbor against neighbor.

At a time when President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government is jailing its opponents and struggling to revive a sinking economy, the violence adds a new layer of populist frustration: Christians strongly supported Sissi’s rise, expecting him to protect them after the former army general led a coup that toppled the Islamists.

“As Egyptian citizens, Christians don’t feel they are equal to their Muslim counterparts,” said Bishop Makarios, the head of the Coptic diocese in Minya province, where Asem is situated. “They feel oppressed, and marginalized by the law.”

Christians across the region have endured horrific assaults in the turbulent aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

 

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Situation Has Improved for Christians in Egypt, Says Open Doors CEO

Dr. David Curry is the CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization which advocates for persecuted Christians around the world. In part one of CP’s interview with Curry, he discusses ISIS’ surge in Iraq and its implications for Iraq’s remaining 500,000 Christians and its effects on neighboring Syria. This is part two of the interview where he shares with The Christian Post why 2014 has generally been a more peaceful year for the Egyptian church than 2013. Curry had recently returned from Egypt.

Bishop-General Macarius, a Coptic Orthodox leader, walks around the burnt and damaged Evangelical Church in Minya governorate

 

Bishop-General Macarius (R), a Coptic Orthodox leader, walks around the burnt Evangelical Church in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, August 26, 2013.

CP: What’s the situation like in 2014 for Egyptian Christians?

Curry: The situation has improved for Christians in Egypt.

CP: What do you attribute that to?

Curry: It’s been due to the willingness of the new government to protect Christian areas to allow for free expression of faith for Christians, for people to attend church in safety, to be able to associate themselves with their faith. I am encouraged; this is not a political statement for the government because I’m not an expert in political situations, but I can tell you that this is an improvement for Egyptian Christians; it’s stability that they welcome.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

Egypt’s Christian minority rally behind charter

622x350AZIYAH, Egypt (AP) — Hymns echoing from the new church in this village in Egypt’s southern heartland could be heard well after sundown, a reminder of the jubilant mood as Aziyah’s Christian residents voted on a new constitution.

Outside in the dusty streets, volunteers hurriedly arranged for buses to transport voters to polling stations before they closed on Wednesday night. In past elections, Islamists used fear or intimidation to stop Christians from voting against them.

This time around, Aziyah’s Christians faced no obstacles on their way to the ballot box.

“I cast my ballot as I pleased. I am not afraid of anybody,” said Heba Girgis, a Christian resident of the nearby village of Sanabu, who said she was harassed and prevented from casting a vote against the 2012 Islamist-backed constitution. “Last time I wanted to say no. I waited in line for two hours before the judge closed the station.”

“This time we said ‘yes’ and our opinion matters,” Girgis added as she walked home with a friend after casting her vote. “This is for our children, for all those who died and suffered. Our word now carries weight.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

Gunmen Fire at Church in Egypt; At Least 3 Die

An Egyptian Christian woman grieves for a relative killed during Saturday's bomb attack at the Coptic Orthodox church in AlexandriaCAIRO — Gunmen on a motorcycle sprayed bullets at a church in a Cairo suburb late Sunday, killing at least three people. The attack appeared to be one of the deadliest in months against Egypt’s Christian minority, security officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was apparently aimed at guests attending a wedding, the officials said. At least 12 people were injured in the shooting, the officials said.

The killings signaled a broadening of the violence that has gripped Egypt since early July, when the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist and the country’s first elected leader, after widespread protests against his rule.

More than 1,000 of Mr. Morsi’s supporters have been killed during a campaign by the government that appears aimed at eradicating the former president’s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

More than 1,000 of Mr. Morsi’s supporters have been killed during a campaign by the government that appears aimed at eradicating the former president’s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some of Mr. Morsi’s sympathizers have singled out Egypt’s Coptic Christians as scapegoats for retaliation, saying they supported the military takeover, and have burned churches as well as houses, businesses and schools belonging to Christians. The authorities have done little to deter the attacks, or to identify those responsible.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Egyptian Nationalism Unites Christians And Muslims As Political Turmoil Continues

EGYPT-POLITICS-UNRESTCAIRO (RNS) After decades of polarization along religious lines, Christians and Muslims in Egypt are coming together to rally behind their flag.

The country is in the midst of a swell of nationalism that began during the revolution in 2011 and intensified when citizens took to the streets in June of this year to call for the removal of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian flags adorn houses and buildings throughout the capital, and everything — from sandbags buttressing military blockades to pillars along the Nile Corniche — has been painted in the national colors of black, white and red.

These sentiments have served to unite Christians and Muslims. In recent decades, Christians had become increasingly cloistered — a trend of “closed communalism” that Gamal Soltan, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, said has been building since the 1970s. That began to change during the revolution in 2011.

The 18 days of demonstrations during the first Tahrir Square uprising ushered in poignant displays of interreligious unity, with protesters sharing prayers and holding aloft Bibles and Qurans. Political writer and commentator Bassem Sabry called this the “grass-roots manifestation” of nationalistic coexistence.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Egypt’s Struggle Is Against Political Islam, Christian Editor Says

AMR02_EGYPT-_0215_11BY ANUGRAH KUMAR, CHRISTIAN POST CONTRIBUTOR
August 24, 2013|1:10 pm

While the Western world sees the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi as a military coup, the editor of Egypt’s weekly Christian newspaper says it was a coup by the people of the country and an attempt to abort efforts towards political Islam.

Youssef Sidhom, editor of the weekly called Watani (My Homeland), told Voice of America in an interview that Egyptians were hopeful that the Islamist President Morsi would govern the nation impartially, which did not happen.

“Months and months had elapsed when they failed to do so. And there has been during the past year of the rule of President Morsi an accumulating level of bitterness and anger on (the) part of Egyptians – that the Muslim Brotherhood are only clever in taking power in their hands and ousting every other political faction,” Sidhom said.

Referring to massive protests that preceded Morsi’s ouster, he added, “Egyptians enormously went down to the streets – whether Christians or Muslims – saying enough is enough and we’re not taking any more of the rule of Morsi. And I have to admit they were very lucky that their anger, which erupted, was sided by the Egyptian military.”

The editor went on to say that the vast majority of Egyptians were happy with Morsi’s removal despite the recent bloodbath. “…On June 30, according to most of the estimations, it was an overwhelming 30 million Egyptian people going down to the streets, both Christian and Muslim. It seems that no less than 85 or 90 percent of Egyptians are very relieved to get rid of political Islam led by the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

Egypt’s Coup: Muslim and Christian leaders back military roadmap

A protester holds a cross and Koran during a protest demanding that President Mohamed Mursi resign at Tahrir Square in CairoJust hours after the Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi from office on Wednesday leading Muslim and Christian clerics announced their support for an army-sponsored plan to suspend the constitution and hold early elections according to Egypt’s state-controlled Ahram Online.

Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, one of the highest authorities on Sunni Islam, and Pope Tawadros II, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, sat beside one another in a symbolic gesture of sectarian unity as General al-Sisi announced the transition plan on Egyptian State Television.

The general was also surrounded by other noteworthy Muslim, secularist and liberal political leaders in a show of consensus that could help Egyptian military leaders garner support for their plan in Washington.

Reactions from the White House and the State Department have been ambiguous, although President Barack Obama expressed deep concern over the removal of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president and called for a quick return to civilian leadership.

In May Secretary of State John Kerry quietly approved $1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt despite the country’s failure to meet congressional democracy standards. U.S. law requires non-humanitarian aid to be cut-off to any country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’etat.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE EXAMINER