Removal of Islamist president ignites violence against Egypt’s Christians
Since the ousting of Egypt’s Islamist president from power last July, attacks against the country’s Coptic Christians have been on the rise. In the past few days only, violence has erupted in Upper Egypt – Minya governorate- where Islamist groups attacked and burnt homes, stores and Churches. Many Copts refused to return to their homes fearing further attacks.
In July, sectarian violence in the Luxor and Sinai governorates resulted in four Copts dead, several homes looted and a priest murdered. Eye witnesses said that the police took no action to protect the citizens despite prior knowledge of the heated atmosphere and despite their presence on the scene during attacks. It has also become apparent recently that the media is turning a blind eye on these attacks. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) warned last month about the gravity of sectarian violence seen in several governorates since the June 30th demonstrations. It described as ‘disturbing’ the way the state agencies have dealt with these incidents and claimed that these agencies have acted slowly, have not performed their legally mandated roles and failed to intervene to protect citizens.
“Copts in Egypt are paying the price for the removal of the president as Islamist leaders like to blame them for the popular uprising of June 30th,” stated Maher Rizkallah, President of the Canadian Coptic Association in Ontario.
According to MidEast Christians News (MCN), a dozen of Coptic residents of Minya have been detained earlier this week, including a 12 year old minor. The detainees have been accused of contempt of religion in addition to being behind the crisis which erupted in the village over a dispute about an army related song. As a result, 24 shops, 7 houses and 9 cars owned by Copts have been destroyed and burnt. Isaac Ghadalla, whose house was set on fire on Monday August 6, got escorted to Minya’s police station accused of firing upon the attackers first. Meanwhile he states he does not own a firearm and still does not understand the reason for his arrest while being the victim.
“The attacks on the Copts in Upper Egypt are condemned not only for how it affects the religious minorities but also how badly it damages the cohesion of the social Egyptian pattern as a whole and societal citizenship as well as sense of belonging,” stated Mohamed Eid, an active member of National Salvation Front in Canada.
In the midst of this sectarian turmoil, foreign mediators flew in to Cairo Monday seeking settlement between the current authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood. In a meeting with members of the interim government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces Abdel Fatah Al-Sissi, United States senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham urged end of violence in Egypt as well as the release of Muslim Brotherhood. Senators stressed the importance of national dialogue, the amending of the constitution, and elections, which will result in democratic governance in the country. It is notable that none of the mediation efforts were directed towards ending violence against Egypt’s Christian minority