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ICC Note: After a Muslim cleric was appointed to be the mediator in Muslim-Christian relations in Minya, the Coptic community has said they have reached a ‘breaking point.” Mahmoud Gomaa has continually denied the existence of true violence between Muslims and Christians. In fact, the bishop of Minya has explained that he will have nothing to do with this man, as Gomaa has little regard for real peace. Tensions have been evident in Minya in the past few months as dozens of attacks against Christians have taken place, prompting the national government to pass a controversial church building law in hopes of restoring peace. The Coptic community has been less than impressed with all these biased initiatives.

09/06/2016 Egypt (New York Times): The Egyptian government has appointed Imam Mahmoud Gomaa, a Muslim cleric, to keep the peace between Christians and Muslims in this corner of upper Egypt. “Everything is good,” he insisted in an interview, citing Christian participation in his official peace-building initiative.

But just a few hours later, the local bishop, Makarios, offered a very different view. “I have nothing to do with Mahmoud Gomaa,” he said.

Once again, Egyptian Christians are feeling under siege, at least in Minya, a city on the banks of the Nile where about 40 percent of the population is Christian. And once again, Christian leaders are divided over how to respond.

At the highest levels of the Coptic Orthodox Church, there is an effort to not make waves and to work with the central government to present an image of unity and calm. After a series of attacks on Copts this summer, the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, pleaded with his followers in the United States not to go ahead with planned demonstrations outside the White House intended to bring international attention to the violence.

“Please, for Christ’s sake, avoid this behavior,” he said.

But in Minya, where violence against Christians often flares, local Coptic leaders are reluctant to go along.

“We are at a breaking point,” Bishop Makarios said. “People can’t put up with any more of this.”

The violence created tensions both inside and outside the Coptic Church. In public, Pope Tawadros II took what, to many of his followers, looked like a timid approach. In Minya, Bishop Makarios decided to speak out. And Imam Gomaa, the government official, accused him of overreacting. The violent attacks were just minor disputes that happened to take place between Muslims and Christians, he said.

“No one has been killed,” Imam Gomaa said. “No one has even been wounded. There’s no conflict. The problem is really with the journalists writing about it.”

Actually, the bishop said, there have been killings. In July in the Minya village of Tahna El-Jabal, a Christian was stabbed to death by a mob, he said. A month earlier, in Sinai, a Christian priest was killed by Islamic State extremists, making him the Islamic State’s ninth victim among Copts in the northern Sinai.

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