Study: Religious Oppression Rises Despite Arab Spring

Photo courtesy Mariia Savoskula/

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Middle East United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi. Photo courtesy Mariia Savoskula/

People who hoped the Arab Spring would lead to greater religious freedom across the Middle East have been sorely disappointed, and a new Pew study confirms that the region has grown even more repressive for various religious groups.

“In 2011, when most of the political uprisings known as the Arab Spring occurred, the Middle East and North Africa experienced pronounced increases in social hostilities involving religion, while government restrictions on religion remained exceptionally high,” according to the report by the Pew Research Center.

The study shows the number of countries in the Middle East or North Africa with sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10 during 2011, a year that coincided with most of the political uprisings of Arab Spring.

Three Popes at Vatican as Francis Welcomes Head of Egypt’s Copts

Copts make up ten percent of Egypt's population. Photo courtesy George Nazmi Bebawi/

Pope Francis on Friday met with Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, an encounter that brought the number of popes within the Vatican walls to three this week.

Benedict XVI, the emeritus pope, returned to the Vatican on May 2, two months after his resignation, while Tawadros is only the second Coptic pope to visit the Vatican, after the historic visit of Pope Shenouda III to Pope Paul VI in 1973.

Tawadros — on his first foreign trip since he was elected in November — is staying at the Vatican’s guesthouse where Pope Francis is also living. Benedict is now living in a revamped convent a 5-minute walk away, but there were no plans for the two men to meet.

Middle East Christians Keep Wary Eye on Arab Spring

CAIRO, Egypt — From her home, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as visitors outside come to look upon the spot where Egypt's Coptic Christians believe Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus found refuge after fleeing Bethlehem.
Once crowded with Christians, Cairo's Coptic quarter where she lives with her husband, Mounir, and two children is now home to fewer than 50 Christian families.
"We know many Christians have left," said Mounir Ramsis, speaking not only about this quarter but about all of Egypt. "But we love this country and will stay until death."
The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled secular dictatorships have unleashed long-suppressed freedoms that have allowed Islamic parties to gain a share of political power they have been denied for decades. Their rise is creating near-panic among ancient Christian communities that dot the Muslim world and predate Islam by centuries.

Egypt's Coptic Christian Community Faces Harsh Persecution

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.

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. “