Egypt : Attacks on Coptic Christians escalate

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aid-33927_01.jpgSOCIETY FOR THREATENED PEOPLES PRESS RELEASE
3rd June 2008
Egypt : After murder of four Copts attacks of extremist Muslims escalate against Christians
After the murder of four Coptic Christians in Cairo last Wednesday the
tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt have increased. The
Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) reported on Tuesday that armed
extremist Muslims attacked a Coptic monastery on Saturday in the town of
Deir Abu Fana in the province of Minya some 210 km south of Cairo .
Three monks were abducted, mishandled and severely wounded before they
could be released. A non-violent protest march of about 300 Copts, which
followed the incident, was broken up by the police using firearms. One
Muslim was killed and four Christians were injured. Eight Copts were
arrested, among them being a Coptic builder who had been given the
contract of refurbishing the monastery of Abu Fana. The Muslims wanted
to prevent the refurbishment of the monastery and the rebuilding of its
walls.

“The Egyptian authorities deny the religious background to the conflict
and declare that it was purely a private matter”, said the GfbV
Near-east consultant, Kamal Sido. “It is clearly the intention to cover
up the fact that the situation between Christians and Muslims is full of
tension.” For this reason the GfbV is today writing to Christian
institutions in 35 western countries with the appeal to protest against
the discrimination of Christians in Egypt , which is increasingly giving
rise to concern. In Deir Abu Fana there was a similar incident in
October 2007, in which 20 people were injured. There are many Christians
living in the town and there are many monasteries which are considered
especially holy by the Copts.

On Wednesday in Zeituna in the north-east of Cairo the 60-year old
jeweller Makram Galil and three of his employees were shot dead. The two
assassins fled on a motor-cycle. The first investigations show that
nothing was stolen. This part of the city is known for the high
proportion of Christians living there. Only a few months before – in the
autumn of 2007 – the two Coptic Christians, Sadak Jamak and Karam
Andraus, were murdered in the Christian village of El Kosheh , south of
Cairo .

Christians make up, with eight to ten million people, about eight
percent of the Egyptian population of 79 millions. Most of the
Christians are Copts, and most of these are Oriental Orthodox. There are
also a few Coptic Catholics. The Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and
Protestant Arabian Christians have only small communities.