Egypt’s Coptic Church fights for safety

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Egypt’s Coptic Christian community has called on the government to do more to protect the troubled minority.

The plea comes after recent clashes between Copts and Muslims in the country have increased tensions and worries of widespread violence.

The Coptic Church issued a strongly worded statement to President Hosni Mubarak asking him to guarantee their safety after they alleged that attacks against the group were increasing, a statement carried by the Egyptian media on Sunday said.

A violent clash erupted at a monastery in central Egypt recently over a land dispute that left at least four Copts and a few Muslims injured.

Copts have largely maintained innocence in the sectarian violence that is gripping the country.

The Coptic Ecclesiastical Council called on Mubarak to prevent “more armed attacks on monks” and “insults to the cross”, the statement said.

The move follows a land dispute involving a historic monastery which turned violent on May 31, leading to the death of a Muslim man who was reportedly attacking the monastery.

Cairo has tried to play down the violence, arguing that these clashes are a result of personal in-fighting and are not related to religion.

Mohammed Youssri, director of the Cairo-based Tadamon NGO, agrees. “Most of the time the fighting we see is not based on the need to hurt someone from another faith. (They are) simply personal grievances one has with another, but this is not to say all are this way.”

An estimated 10 per cent of Egypt’s 80 million people are Coptic Christians. Many Copts claim the government is not doing enough to protect their rights, saying widespread discrimination occurs against them. Panapress .

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