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Egyptian Christians face opposition

March 21, 2011 No Comment

Egyptians voted on Saturday, March 19 on a number of proposed constitutional amendments.

A popular uprising may have ousted a dictator in Egypt, but that does not mean the instant arrival of total freedom for all citizens. Since the protests that drove President Hosni Mubarak from office, life for Christians in Egypt seems as complicated as ever. A series of recent events puts into question whether Christians are friends or foes of the swift political changes, despite the Coptic church being one of the oldest in Christendom.

According to Barnabas Aid, one of many agencies that assist persecuted Christians, a church leader was found stabbed to death in his home on February 22. That same week, Egyptian soldiers stormed some Christian facilities, firing live ammunition at those inside, and wounding some. In Minya, the provincial governor ordered the demolition of a church-run welfare centre for disabled children and youth. This led 10,000 Christians to protest on February 28. That same day, the governor ordered the demolition of 10 newly-built homes owned by Christian families.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Egyptian revolution has made the country’s Christians even more vulnerable to attack—not just by unrestrained Islamists, but also by authorities,” says Barnabas Aid International Director Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo. His assertion is confirmed by secular news services. Reporter Steve Inskeep of American broadcaster National Public Radio (NPR) titled a March 11 article “In New Egypt, Christians Face Old Discrimination.” Shortwave service Voice of America (VOA), notes in three recent articles “Even before Egypt’s pro-democracy uprising, tensions had been growing between Christians and Muslims in the North African country.”

The tensions between Christians, Muslims, and the authorities in Egypt continued escalating in March. Voice of the Martyrs, another organization serving the persecuted church, posted an article on its website explaining how on March 4, a Muslim mob in the village of Sool burned down a Coptic church and almost killed the parish priest after an imam issued instructions to “kill all the Christians.” The decree was one of many in response to an alleged romantic affair between a Muslim woman and a Christian man. “The village culture forbids that kind of relationship to happen,” Rev. Apollo Isaac, a Coptic priest, told NPR.

On March 9, VOA reported that Christian protesters began assembling in Cairo, including many of the city’s Christian sanitation workers, carrying tall wooden crosses in demand of equal rights. NPR reported that clashes between Christians and Muslims that week left 13 dead and 140 wounded. The broadcaster also reported that Christians gathered to pray and share their concerns in a vast underground cave.

Even though anger and fear were prevalent, faith and optimism were still found. “The pains of this life are nothing compared to the glorious state we will be in in the afterlife,” said a priest.

A Christian named Magdi sounded hopeful, noting the new Egypt is still in its infancy, and things could someday change for the better. “We are all ignorant when it comes to politics. For the last 40 or 50 years, we were just trying to find money to get bread and food, so when it comes to politics, the country is still a newborn.”

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