Egypt’s Coptic Christians Protest Killing by Fundamentalists of 4 at Church

Coptic Christians in Egypt staged a big demonstration on Monday to protest the shooting deaths of four church-goers at the Church of the Virgin in the working class al-Warraq district in Cairo on Sunday. Two of the victims were children. Assailants came in on motorcycles with guns blazing. Many Coptic Christians blamed the deposed Muslim Brotherhood for the attack.

Demonstrators at one point cut off the road along the Nile, the Corniche, a key traffic artery for Cairo.

AFP has a video news report:

Coptic Christians are about 10% of Egypt’s population, something like 8.5 million. They were vocal critics of the government of Muhammad Morsi (June 2012-July 2013), the Muslim Brotherhood leader who won the presidential elections after the fall of Hosni Mubarak but who was deposed by massive protests and a military coup this summer. But then, so were 80% of Egyptians by late spring of this year. After the coup, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gathered supporters on a dais. These included Mahmoud Badr, a young spokesman for the Rebellion (Tamarrud) youth movement that mobilized millions against Morsi, the rector of al-Azhar Seminary (the preeminent Sunni Muslim religious authority), and Coptic Pope Tawadrus II.

The Muslim Brotherhood (founded in 1928 and supported at the moment by perhaps 15% of Egyptians) was furious at the pope’s acquiescence in the coup, but hasn’t similarly attacked al-Azhar seminary. Subsequently, Brotherhood members staged huge sit-ins outside the Rabia al-Adawiyya mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City and in Giza. They were brutally cleared in mid-August, with hundreds killed (including some police and military). Some 2000 Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested. In the aftermath, Amnesty International reports,

“More than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches were seriously damaged across the country in the aftermath of events on 14 August.

One Coptic Christian from the governorate of Fayoum described his dismay at the violence: “Why is it when there is a problem, Christians always pay the price? What do we have to do with the events in Cairo to be punished like this?”

Copts called for the resignation of the transitional government of Prime Minister Hazem Biblawi and especially of his Interior Minister over their inability to keep Egypt’s Christians safe. PM Biblawi for his part roundly condemned the violence against Copts (he is a liberal economist from the American University in Cairo’s faculty).

Most Christians blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the shootings, though to be fair there are other militant Muslim fundamentalist movements in Egypt that might have been behind them (the Brotherhood leadership turned away from violence in the 1970s, though obviously that commitment broke down after August 14). Moreover, with so much of the Brotherhood leadership in prison, mainly for thought crimes, discipline could have easily broken down among the rank and file.

Coptic intellectuals argue that violent Muslim fundamentalists are attacking Egypt’s Christians in hopes of fomenting Muslim-Christian hatred and so of dividing the coalition that overthrew Muhammad Morsi (that coalition was overwhelmingly Muslim, many of them observant, who just did not like what they saw as the grasping and sectarian character of Muslim Brotherhood rule).

Although Christians in Egypt often face discrimination, they are a substantial and demographically growing population with many resources. If Egypt can ever establish a parliamentary democracy, they would certainly emerge as an important swing vote and their social and political power would increase.

5 Responses

  1. 10% is always the figure cited as the relative size of the Coptic community but I have heard that Egypt’s Christian community is under counted and may be as high as 20%.
    In any case the Copts experienced some discrimination under Mubarrak. I’m sure they felt very intimidated by the Morsi regime which failed to include Christians in his government. Sectarian extremists are always the most dangerous since they are convinced that God is on their side. Many here are convinced that God loves the US best. Such thinking only leads to self-righteous atrocity.

  2. You are right Jon, Christians in Egypt were always undercounted and were always discriminated against.
    However since Mosris became president and after we was removed the attachs on churches, christian’s homes and place of businesses bacame so violent and more frequent.

  3. The victimes of the tragedy were both Christians and Muslims, the latter having come to celebrate the wedding of a neighbor’s daughter. They were all sprayed with gunfire as they waited to enter the Church grounds. At the funeral for the Christian dead a Muslim girl stood on a chair holding a cross in one hand and a Qauran in the other.

    More than one TV comentator reminded the audience that prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures such as Mohamed Beltagui and Safwat Higazy had made anti-Christian statements or threats in the course of Morsi’s eyar in office, with the president taking no corrective measures. They warned Christians not to sabotage the referendum in favor of their constitution and were reported to have prevented Christians from voting in some places. During the anti-Morsi protests at the Presidential Palace, Beltagui and Higazy were at it again, this time claiming that 70% of the demonstrators were Copts. As anti-Christian incidents mounted, Morsi made no attempt to show concern or address their security concerns. However, the lack of preparation to protect Christians and their property following the clear out of Rabaa and Nahda is even more shameful.

  4. I am confused about something not related to above story! I read in the New York Times recently that for the Jerusalem mayoral election the Palestinians had the right to vote, but that there was a very long tradition of boycotting. Only something under 2% of the Palestinian population participates. But they have the right to vote. But I thought I read elsewhere that Palestinians do *not* have the right to vote in an election like the one for Mayor of Jerusalem. If someone knows, which is correct?

    • Palestinians have the right to vote in the Jerusalem mayoral election but there was an Arab boycott due to their not recogzizing Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

      Additionally, the ultraorthodox opponent of the incumbent was strongly endorsed by right-wing extremist Avigdor Lieberman and the incumbent mayor aligned himself with religious nationalists – so Arabs had reason to dislike both candidates.

      Theoretically, the Arabs could have been the “swing vote” and named the winner, given the fact the incumbent Barkat only received 51% of the vote.

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