Egyptian Government Turns Blind Eye to Brutal Attacks on Christians
As attacks against the Coptic Orthodox Church escalate in Egypt, human rights advocates say that country’s government has not done enough to protect the Christian minority.
Christians have been stabbed, shot, and seen their houses and churches set on fire. Since May there have been at least one dozen attacks reported.
On June 30, a Coptic priest was shot in Al Arish, North Sinai. The Islamic State took credit for the attack and accused the priest of “waging war against Islam.”
Most attacks are happening the region around Minya, in the south.Because of a rumor about her son having a relationship with a Muslim woman, an elderly Coptic woman was stripped, beaten, and paraded through the streets in her hometown of Minya. She later forgave her attackers in a public video.
Despite her forgiveness, witnesses say the police were late and inefficient in responding to the situation.
“It is escalating in a very short time,” said Mina Thabet, with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms, in response to attacks in Minya.
Thabet said that radical Islamists have a deeply rooted presence in local government and schools. Add a close to 40 percent illiteracy rate and 30 percent of the poorest villages are located there, people are easily manipulated.
“They are all factors,” Thabet said. “You can’t separate the economic and social factors from the equation. It’s a complicated equation.”
Coptic Bishop Makarious of al-Minya, the city with the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt, holds the government responsible for the continuous attacks on the Coptic Christians of Minya.
The bishop derided how the media refers to the attacks as “clashes” as if two parties were fighting one another. Instead, he says the attacks are only one side.
“Within minutes [of the start of one of the attacks], 100 Muslims instantly appeared, fully armed, as if ready for war,” he said.
He also said there are no consequences for attackers and they know it.
“As long as the attackers are never punished, and the armed forces are portrayed as doing their duty, this will encourage others to continue the attacks, since, even if they are arrested, they will be quickly released,” he said.
Local authorities also traditionally make Christians attend “reconciliation sessions,” where two parties negotiate a settlement out of court. But Christians are often forced to surrender their rights and leave their homes as a result.
“Some of the authorities always smile at what is happening.” Bishop Makarious said. “Of course I don’t assume that all authorities have the interest of the nation at heart and are sincere, because if they did, these attacks would not happen time and again, at a rate now of every two or three days.”
Ishak Ibrahim, researcher of religious freedoms at EIPR, told Egyptain newspaper Mada Masr said the effect sends a message of no equality under the law.
“No matter what you do and how you break the law, you will not be punished,” he said.
“What happened in Minya is nothing but a natural result of not enforcing the law in previous sectarian attacks against the Copts, and forcing the Copts to go through reconciliation meetings and obey illegal solutions that are demeaning,” Ibrahim said.
Activists say that the first step towards justice would be removing restrictions on building churches, however without rule of law that step cannot be made.
Source: CBN News