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Islamist violence against Coptic Christians will undermine Egypt’s democratization.
ICC Note: In the weeks following the removal of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s Coptic Christians have become the targets of violent attacks. Morsi’s supporters come primarily from the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the hard-line Salafist parties as well. The attacks have included attacks on churches, houses, stores, as well as kidnappings and shootings. All of these are threatening to undermine the process to construct a democratic and inclusive civil society that leads to the prospering of all Egyptians.
By Girgis Naiem
7/31/2013 Egypt (National Review) – On July 3, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was ousted from power. His detractors came from many segments of Egyptian society, but it is the Coptic Christian community that the MB is scapegoating as the principal actor behind his removal. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that, in a recent article on the MB website entitled “The Military Republic of Tawadros” (Tawadros being the Coptic Orthodox pope), the MB urges its followers to believe that the Copts “openly and secretly led the process of opposition to the Islamic stream and this stream’s rise to power.”
Attacking the Copts will prove to be as destructive to Egypt as to the religious minority itself.
Following Morsi’s ouster, the MB rejected the invitation of interim president Adly Mansour to be part of the political process, and instead has taken to the streets. It seems intent on regaining some of its lost power through the time-honored tactic of stirring up political unrest and then negotiating reconciliation on its own terms.
Copts came under severe attack right after Morsi’s removal and continue to bear the brunt of violence and threats from the MB and other Islamist groups. As a result, numerous churches have decided it is no longer safe for them to hold regular worship services, Sunday school, and catechesis classes. In Minya governorate, the Holy Mass is now being broadcast on the Internet so the faithful won’t have to risk their lives praying in the churches. Elsewhere in Upper Egypt, liturgies finish by 7 a.m., and then for the rest of the day the churches are closed and put under guard. Death threats forced Pope Tawadros II to leave his seat at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo three weeks ago, and his whereabouts are now kept secret; the threats were issued because he attended a conference called by Egypt’s military to work out the country’s road map and because Copts had joined in the anti-Morsi protests.
The attacks that have terrorized the Copts have been carried out in various parts of the country and by various Islamist groups. On July 4, a building belonging to St. George’s Coptic Catholic Church in Delga, Minya, was attacked by MB supporters who hurled stones, opened fire, and threw Molotov cocktails; the building was burned to the ground. Another church in Delga, the Protestant Reformation church, was also attacked. In the Mediterranean coastal city of Marsa Matrouh, MB supporters tried to destroy the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary. They broke windows and burned the security room before soldiers chased them away. The next day, MB supporters attempted to storm Coptic Orthodox churches in Qena and Luxor. The police and military used tear gas to disperse them, leaving 13 injured.
The Salafists, who are even more extreme than the MB, have capitalized on the chaos to terrorize Copts. On July 5, when the body of a Muslim man was discovered in the village of Nagaa Hassan in Luxor governate, a prominent Coptic opposition member was blamed. He had already been receiving threatening text messages for weeks. He and three other Copts were murdered, and the Coptic community in the village saw two dozen of their homes torched by a mob, forcing some to seek refuge at the local Church of St. John.

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