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ICC Note: Egypt’s revolution—at one time a commendable, idealistic dream—has now plummeted toward a grave reality: the only freedoms gained were those of Islamists and Christians are at their mercy. In this article, Al Jazeera looks at the challenges that lie ahead for Egypt’s beleaguered Christian community.
By Alaa Bayoumi
4/23/2013 Egypt (Al Jazeera) – Clashes between Muslims and Christian Copts in Egypt over the past few weeks have left 10 people dead, bringing decades-old sectarian tension back to the forefront in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Violence broke out April 6 after Coptic children allegedly drew crosses on the wall of an Islamic institute in Khosoos, north of Cairo, leaving four Copts and a Muslim dead. A funeral held for Coptic victims at St Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Pope in Cairo, likewise descended into violence after unknown assailants attacked the procession, leading to more deaths in the deadliest sectarian incident since President Mohammed Morsi was elected in June 2012.
The attack on the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral – a major site for Egypt’s Christian population – has resulted in a backlash from the community.
Coptic parliamentarians criticised the government and police for failing to protect the iconic church. Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Church, told local media that Morsi’s handling of the crisis suffered from “negligence and poor assessment of events”, and that the attack “crossed all the red lines”, an unusual move for the church – which has generally shied away from criticising the head of state.
Observers say the incidents expose the Copts’ growing unease with the rise of Muslim political groups, and their concern for their community’s security and future in Egypt.
Decades-old problem
Since the revolution, relations between Muslims and Christians have been tested. The deadliest incident, in October 2011, began after security forces cracked down on Coptic protests near the state TV building, leaving more than 20 dead, mostly Christians.
Observers note that Copts – who make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s 84 million people – have suffered from social and political marginalisation since the 1952 revolution that toppled Egypt’s monarchy.
By using religion as a political ideology since the 1970s, the government allowed the rise of Muslim political religious groups, some of which threatened and used violence against Copts.

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