CSW: Violence against Christians continues to rise in Egypt

2016-07-21 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Egypt has seen a sharp rise in sectarian violence, with particular emphasis on Christians.

This week a Christian man was stabbed to death by a mob of Muslim men, causing tensions to rise within the Christian community which has seen several attacks on both men and women in the last month alone.

Vatican Radio’s Georgia Gogarty spoke with Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s (CSW) Egypt Advocacy Officer, to find out why there has been a sudden spike in violence, and why little is being done to resolve it.

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Since 2013, there have been increasing numbers of attacks against Christians following the ousting of Muslim Bortherhood president; Mohamed Morsi, according to a CSW spokesperson. Although attacks are rarely seen in Egypt’s main cities, unfortunately the governorates in upper Egypt experience “regular small scale sectarian attacks”.  

In recent months there has been “a spate of attacks against Christian communities” for a number of reasons that include rumored Church buildings and romantic relationships between Christian men and Muslim women, with the Christian community largely “being held accountable”.

Although many Christians do feel “encouraged and appreciative” of the unifying rhetoric coming from President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, behavior and actions “doesn’t mirror” this unity. Security services are slow to respond to these attacks and “often ignore the problem”. “Rudimentary reconciliation measures” if anything are imposed, and justice is rarely seen in any of these situations, says the CSW spokesperson.

The CSW has been calling for action against “the idea of customary reconciliation meetings”, whereby village elders and religious leaders “meter out an extrajudicial punishment” to the perpetrators to try and reconcile the community. The CSW spokesperson stresses that these are largely unjust, taking place outside of Egypt’s judiciary system and go as far to target the minority party, usually the Christian community. They are there to try and “serve a purpose of deescalating tensions whereas what they often do is escalate”, further impounding the course of justice.

Pope Francis often speaks about the importance of interfaith dialogue. The CSW spokesperson said that “Egyptians place a lot of emphasis between different faith communities”, explaining that Egypt is an integral country within the Muslim community, whilst there is also a real indigenous community of Coptic Christians. The Egyptian government “take on the message” of Pope Francis but also that of Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria. The CSW spokesperson concludes that messages of unity need to come from the government and religious leaders in order for them to filter into society.

 

(from Vatican Radio)