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Egyptian Coptic Christians Attacked by Violent Mobs

ICC Note

Failure of Egyptian authorities to protect Christians is contributing to increasing persecution against Christians in that country.

21/06/2007 Egypt (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)-In the last fortnight, two Coptic Orthodox Christian Communities in northern Egypt have been attacked by rioters following arguments between Christians and Muslims.

According to the Coptic newspaper, Watani, and news agency Compass Direct, a group of Muslims attacked the Christian quarter of Zwyet Abdel-Qader on 8 June 2007, looting shops and vandalizing homes. The rioting was eventually broken up by police after 90 minutes.

Four days later, on 12 June 2007, the Holy Virgin’s Church in Dekheila was attacked after a fight broke out between Christians and Muslims. The fighting started from an argument between a Coptic Christian, 16 year old Bassem Mikail, and 21 year old Muslim Abdel-Dayem, who were both construction workers. The rioters threw bottles and stones at the Church, although serious damage was prevented by the immediate response of local police.

Egypt has a history of conflict between Muslims and Coptic Christians. On 11 May 2007, the Imam of a mosque in the village of Bemha , Giza , told his congregation to defend Islam in the face of a rumour that a new Church was secretly being built. A mob subsequently attacked seventy houses, looting shops and wounding many Christians. In February, a similar mob attack took place against Christians in Armant, Upper Egypt , following rumours of an affair between a Muslim girl and a Christian man.

During a fact-finding trip to Egypt in March 2007, Christian Solidarity Worldwide met with Christian representatives, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. They expressed concern that the lack of action by Egyptian Authorities to prevent these attacks has made the Coptic community vulnerable to this kind of violence.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s National Director, Stuart Windsor, said: “There is a clear similarity to these attacks which must be investigated by the Egyptian Authorities. The lack of prosecutions following these attacks has resulted in the failure to deter people from planning and taking part in similar mob violence. Unless the Egyptian Government tackles the underlying social tensions and promotes a culture of tolerance and equality, we fear more clashes like these will be triggered by trivial situations.”

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