Egypt's Coptic Christian Community Faces Harsh Persecution

By Joshua Witchger 11-15-2011
Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian pontiff, listens to President Obama deli
Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian pontiff, listens to President Obama deliver a speech in Cairo, Egypt in 2009.

The Coptic Christian community in Egypt is facing harsh persecution.

Just days before the country’s first democratic election (set for Nov. 28), 27 Coptic protestors were killed for demonstrating against the military’s recent burning of a Christian community center. And despite drawing global attention, which included anti-violence demonstrations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the Global Post reports that, "the demonstrations reflect mounting fears in Egypt’s Coptic community and its Diaspora that after the pro-democracy uprising of earlier this year the predominantly Muslim Egyptian society seems as indifferent to the Christian minority’s concerns as ever. “

But the intolerance against the Copts stretches farther still. On Oct. 9, the Maspero attacks, in which Coptic protestors were assaulted in front of a national television building, left many hospitalized and in grave fear of their lives. With these mass attacks, coupled with the military bombing of several churches earlier this year, Egypt's Coptic Christians find themselves in dire straights.

While the Egyptian military claims the causalities are not Coptics who have been targeted for their religious beliefs, but simply Egyptians, the overwhelming number of victims are, in fact, Copts, who appear helpless against the persecution.

As the Global Post reports, “The demonstration in Cairo had confirmed Copts’ longstanding — and debilitating — fear: When they mobilize, they are struck down, even killed.”

Now many Copts fear that the revolution in Tahrir Square has left them behind. Religious tensions are running high and the number of Egyptian Christians is dwindling.  

“Constructive ways to move ahead for the Copts remain elusive,” writes Matt Negrin in the Global Post’s special report. In attempt to combat the violence, each Coptic sanctuary has its own routine for protecting its members, from educating one another to performing basic safety measures.

Negrin continues: “Though the violence against Copts hasn’t prompted a desire to protest en masse as Egyptians did in January, it has strengthened their faith. Women at the Church of the Virgin Mary, sitting in pews that were pushed against each other to make room for construction needed after the fire, said they’ve doubled the number of times they come to pray. And Mussad, recalling the Maspero protest she organized, said her devotion to God is reinforced ‘when a person calls me an infidel.’"

Some see this as a battle between Christians and Muslims, some between lay persons and the military, and some between the military and the Egyptian people at large. 

But the overt violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt is unprecedented.

Read Matt Negrin’s full report in the Global Post here.


Joshua Witchger is a web assistant for Sojourners.

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