ICC Note: ISIS accounts for most of the deaths of Christians in Egypt, but not for most of the persecution related incidents. Persecution in Egypt happens on three different layers, each reinforcing the other: the authorities, clergy, and community. The bias against Christians exhibited by the authorities means that Christians have no recourse for legal or judicial due process when they are persecuted by the other two layers. The situation leaves many Egyptian Christians feeling like they are treated as second-class citizens.
02/16/2018 Egypt (Coptic Solidarity) – It is one thing for Egyptian President Sisi not to be able to prevent surprise Islamic terror attacks against Egypt’s Christians, the Copts. But what does one make of the fact that his own government—police, local authorities and courts—also discriminate against and persecute the Copts?
Most recently, a court sentenced 19 Muslim defendants to a one-year suspended sentence for attacking an unregistered church near Giza last December 22. Then, dozens of Muslim rioters had gathered outside the building; they eventually stormed it and “destroyed the church’s contents and assaulted Christians inside before security forces arrived and dispersed them.”
Based on this sentencing (from a misdemeanor court no less), the defendants are not required to serve prison time unless they get into trouble again. On the other hand, a Coptic Christian defendant was fined 360,000 Egyptian pounds (about $20,383) for setting up the unlicensed church.
The court’s logic is that, by using an unregistered building as a church, this entire incident is the Copt’s fault—for aggrieving local Muslims. Meanwhile, the well-known fact is that getting a church permit in Egypt is as difficult as getting a mosque permit is easy—and explains why havoc ensues when Copts merely try to renovate their churches, while ten mosques are opened every week. In other words, if the government did not make it so difficult for Copts to congregate and worship, they would not need to resort to using private homes and unregistered buildings.
This is hardly the first such incident to reflect the Egyptian authorities’ flagrant double standards. Muslim uprisings based on Copts meeting in private homes to worship or using unregistered buildings—with local officials ultimately siding with violent Muslim rioters—is a common occurrence in Egypt. For example, last summer in the village of Kom al-Loufy in Minya, where some 1,600 Copts have for five years been trying to reopen their church, Muslims rampaged through the village, burning Christian homes to the ground on a rumor that Copts were using one of the homes to meet and pray in.
In Sohag City, a similar chain of events took place. After waiting 44 years, the Christians of Nag Shenouda were issued the necessary permits to build a church in 2015. According to a report, local Muslims rioted and burned down the temporary worship tent. When a Christian tried to hold a religious service in his home, a Muslim mob attacked it. Denied a place to worship, the Christians of Nag Shenouda celebrated Easter in the street.
Also after waiting years, the Christians of Gala’ village finally received formal approval to begin restoring their dilapidated church (see pictures here). Soon thereafter, on April 4, 2015, Muslims rioted, hurling stones at Christian homes, businesses and persons. Christian-owned wheat farms were destroyed and their potato crops uprooted. The usual Islamic slogans were shouted: “Islamic! Islamic!” and “There is no God but Allah!”
For interviews with Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.