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Report on the Plight of Christians in Egypt


  • The recent 2011 Alexandria bombing that killed 23 Christians leaving a New Year’s Eve church service. At the time of the blast several thousand Coptic Christians were attending liturgy at the church at the occasion of the New Year. This was the worst attack on Christians after the 2001 Kosheh massacre which left 21 Christians dead.The bombing occurred a few months after a group in Iraq with ties to “al-Qaida” announced that all Christians in the Middle East were considered “legitimate targets” in response to two Egyptian Christian women allegedly being held hostages by the Coptic Church. These women were converted to Islam in order to get divorces from their husbands. Al-Qaida in Iraq says it is carrying out attacks on Christians in that country until Egyptian Church officials release the two women. The Church denies holding the women against their will. Pope Benedict XVI denounced the attacks and appealed for religious freedom and tolerance in the Middle East and urged governments of the countries of the region to defend Christians against discrimination, abuse and religious intolerance which are today striking Christians in particular. This caused a rift with the Egyptian government as the comments of the Pope according to the former gave the impression that the government does not guarantee the freedom and safety of Egyptian Christians. Consequently, the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning “Al Azhar” freezed its inter-religious dialogue with the Vatican.

  • The clash of some 500 Christian Egyptians with police in Cairo on January 12th in a protest against the shooting to death of a Christian man by a Muslim policeman on a train. Pope Shenouda III, who leads Egypt’s estimated 8 million Coptic Christians, has urged his followers to stay calm. He said that all problems could be solved through peaceful means, rather than by belligerence and tumult. Pope Shenouda blamed the disturbances on socio-economic conditions that have made many Egyptians desperate. He said that people can be manipulated or pushed to behave rashly through poverty or hunger. He argued that such ongoing problems must be solved calmly and with all available means.

  • The cordoning of Saint Mary’s Church in Talbiya by the Egyptian security forces on November 24, a poor Christian suburb south of Cairo, after declaring that further construction of the church was illegal. More than 1,000 Copts retaliated by protesting the police interference, as they had previously been told by government officials that the church’s construction had been approved and that their permits were valid. Security forces fired on the unarmed protestors with live ammunition and rubber bullets. Four Copts were killed in the protests, including three young men and a four-year-old child who suffocated from tear gas. One hundred and sixty eight Copts were arrested, including more than 20 minors under the age of 18 who were sent to Al-Marg Juvenile Detention Center.

  • The increasing waves of mob assaults by Muslims against Copts, forcing many Christians to flee their homes. In April/May 2010, a mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked the Coptic Christian population in the city of Marsa Matrouh, with 400 Copts having to barricade themselves in their church while the mob destroyed 18 homes, 23 shops and 16 cars.

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