Coptic Christians in Egypt have come under harsh attack since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi — with members of the community kidnapped, killed, and their houses of worship trashed amid charges they were behind this month’s coup, community leaders and activists say.
“Copts have always been subject to religious persecution, but what happened this past week was a negative reaction to the [General] al-Sisi statement ending Morsi’s term,” Ishaq Ibrahim, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told The Financial Times
“Muslim Brotherhood members were spreading rumors since then saying it is a Coptic conspiracy to exclude them from power,” he added.
At least nine Christians have been killed nationwide in recent weeks, including at least one priest, The FT reports. More than a dozen churches have been attacked or destroyed — and Coptic-owned businesses have been smeared with graffiti, while threatening fliers have been distributed.
Meanwhile, activists and community officials say the current round of violence has been inflamed by the rhetoric of Islamists irate over the toppling of Morsi.
And across Cairo on Friday, Morsi’s defenders and foes alike rallied supporters at competing demonstrations, one in Tahrir Square and the other around the Raba’a al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo.
Some worry that the rivalry is becoming sectarian, the FT reports.
For instance, Mina Aboud Sharween, a priest, was killed by gunmen on July 6. And the body of Magdy Lamei, a Christian salesman, was found on Thursday, days after being kidnapped and held for a ransom of about $70,000.
Both killings took place in the Sinai Peninsula, where presumed Islamists have been attacking Egyptian security forces since June 30, the FT reports.
“I cannot accuse any faction for these crimes,” the Rev. Ayoub Youssef, a priest from the Sinai taking refuge in Cairo after his church was firebombed, told the FT. “It is the investigative reports that will determine that.
“But I am asking the new government to speed up these prosecutions,” he said.
According to Newsmax contributor James Walsh
, Coptic Christians have resided in Egypt since the 1st century A.D., about 600 years before Muhammad began preaching and 630 years before he solidified Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
Muslims entered Egypt in the year 639 and by the 13th century, Islam had taken over. By the 20th century, Christians, who formed only 10 percent of the Egyptian population, had become victims of on-again-off-again violence by Muslim radicals.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
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