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(Christian Post) – Authorities in Egypt arrested 34 people after more than a thousand Christians staged a round-the-clock sit-in at the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Egypt ‘s capital for four days. Since Sunday, demonstrators gathered to demand the release of the wife of a Coptic priest who they claim was abducted and forced to convert to Islam by Muslim extremists. While Egypt’s native Christian Copts—numbering between 12-15 million and constituting approximately 15 percent of Egypt’s population—have long been targets for Muslim extremists according to the U.S. Copt Association, a recent rise in anti-Coptic sentiment has prompted an escalation in violence against Copts. The most recent incident—in which Wafaa Constantine Messiha was reportedly abducted and forced to convert to Islam—prompted hundreds to thousands of Coptic demonstrators in the Egyptian provinces of Cairo, el-Minia, el-Behara and Assiut to take to the streets in protest. According to sources, the on-going protest was also a response to the Egyptian President’s inattention to Coptic pleas for protection from government persecution and the recent escalation in anti-Coptic hate crimes such as arson, torture, murder, and the abduction, rape, and forced conversion of young Coptic women.

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