Egypt is suffering from “lawlessness” where Muslims are openly attacking Christians and not being brought to justice, according to a leading Coptic bishop.
Bishop Angaelos of the UK Coptic Church told Christian Today that many “promises” had been made about improving the situation for Christians in Egypt. But unfortunately, nothing was changing.
“There is still an element of lawlessness where Christians are being attacked and no one is being brought to justice. This is spreading,” he said.
It was being exacerbated by Egypt’s precarious financial situation which is building frustrations and making tensions worse: “It has definitely got worse and in the last six months we’ve had almost weekly occurrences.”
Nationally, Egypt’s leaders are saying the right things about embracing equality for all citizens, Christian and Muslim, Angaelos said.
It had been hoped that with the 2014 election of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after President Mubarak was ousted five years ago and his successor, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, was deposed, that Muslim discrimination against Christians would start coming to an end.
However, this is not filtering down to the local level. This means when incidents do occur, they tend to escalate.
Bishop Angaelos was speaking out after the latest reports of Muslims torching shops owned by Christians after an argument broke out during between two boys of different faiths during a football game.
The Washington Post reports that Gamal Sobhy, a Christian farmer, sprinted into the game to protect his son when the fighting broke out. He was hit repeatedly, including with a stick, and collapsed bleeding on the ground.
“The Muslims were yelling, ‘Kill him, kill him’,” Sobhy said.
The newspaper reports that community leaders are finding that even the smallest things will set off violence, pitting neighbour against neighbour.
Bishop Makarios, head of the Coptic diocese in Minya province, told the Post: “As Egyptian citizens, Christians don’t feel they are equal to their Muslim counterparts. They feel oppressed, and marginalised by the law.”
Open Doors ranks Egypt at 22 on its World Watch persecution list. The charity reports: “In the Sinai region, radical groups operate with impunity and remain a threat to the stability of the country. Elsewhere, unofficial ‘customary law sessions’ have seen Christians punished for crimes outside of a proper legal process; in June 2015, several Coptic families were expelled from their village after someone was found guilty of publishing pictures against Islam.
“Christian women are particularly vulnerable, often changing their Christian names to Muslim ones to avoid rape or kidnapping.”