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After the protests in Tahrir Square, Egypt’s Coptic Christians want a more equal voice in the new Egyptian government, too.

ICC Note:

There is concern that “the current timeline for parliamentary elections in Egypt will allow Islamists to get more than their fair share of power in a new government, and to create laws even more unfair to Copts,” Public Radio International reports.

By Ben Gilbert

4/11/2011 Egypt (Public Radio International) – Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. And they say they’re treated unfairly for decades by the majority Muslim population. Now they’re demanding equal treatment in any new Egyptian government.

When the Coptic Christian Shahedin Church in Helwan province south of Cairo was burned down last month during a feud between Christians and Muslims, it set off a firestorm in Egypt’s Coptic community. Egyptian newspaper publisher Youssef Sidhoum, a Coptic Christian, said the act was unprecedented.

“We have a long bitter history of attacking churches over last three decades, but never a church destroyed to the ground, and it triggered anger throughout Copts,” Sidhoum said.

Copts blocked roads in Cairo and other cities. Then, clashes broke out in a poor suburb of the capital. Thirteen people died — mostly Christians — and dozens were wounded.

Sit in

The protests spurred more Copts to stage a sit-in near the Egyptian State TV headquarters chanting, “This is the corrupt media.” They claim the government-run media ignored, or distorted, their pleas for justice. A teacher named Wael Wadee-Ayer carried a cross, and said the army wasn’t doing enough to protect Christians.

“The Muslims destroy our churches, and shoot our people, and the army was with them, shooting on our people,” Ayer said. “We want the church rebuilt in the same place, and we also want to be full citizen[s], have the same rights, and we feel that we are in our country — we want a new constitution.”

Article 2 of Egypt’s constitution says the official state religion is Islam, and the laws will be guided by Sharia. But it also says all citizens should be treated fairly – though clearly they are not. Christians have a much harder time building or expanding a church than Muslims do a mosque. It’s nearly impossible for a Muslim to convert to Christianity, but the state facilitates Christian converts to Islam. And, human rights groups say, Christians are underrepresented in government, police, the army and in regional councils.

Reconciliation councils

The government merely formed so-called “reconciliation councils” that laid equal blame on both sides. Sidhoum said this in essence forces the victim to accept the aggressor.

Sidhoum is concerned that the current timeline for parliamentary elections in Egypt will allow Islamists to get more than their fair share of power in a new government, and to create laws even more unfair to Copts.

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