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Plight of Egypt’s Christians

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Christians make up 15 percent of Egypt’s population. In many ways, especially in the country’s rural areas, they are treated as second-class citizens.

Despite being victims of harassment and violence, Egypt’s Coptic Christians have set a standard of forgiveness that everyone should imitate, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K. has said. Egypt’s Christians have been loyal, peaceful, and forgiving amid a recent spate of violence that has driven hundreds from their homes, Bishop Anba Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K., told Catholic News Agency in an interview. “I take a huge pride in their witness and in their example,” he said. “And I think that really has given a substantial example for all of us to follow. If they can live with this grace and graciousness in that volatile setting, then in our day-to-day lives and in our day-to-day struggles, we should be able to do the same.” In the last three months, around 40 Egyptian Christians have been killed, including in a bombing of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in December that killed 29. Local affiliates in Egypt’s Sinai region of the terrorist outfit that calls itself the ‘Islamic State’ have been targeting Christians, intending to drive them out of the area. Attacks in al-Arish, a city in the Sinai region, have resulted in seven deaths, with hundreds of Christians leaving their homes.
Life in Egypt is not easy for its Coptic Christians. Christians make up 15 percent of the Egypt’s population. In many ways, especially in the country’s rural areas, they are treated as second-class citizens as they are victims of discrimination or even violence, and their churches have been attacked. Yet the crimes have not been properly investigated and punished by local authorities.
Christians have seen “many positive things” in the national government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Bishop Angaelos noted, but “what we’re not seeing done is a robust system of law and order at the local level” where security forces can curtail criminal acts and then the local judiciary can hold the perpetrators accountable. “Because otherwise what happens is an overwhelming sense of impunity, and a criminal confidence that continues escalating the violence and the attacks,” he said.
“The tragedy is that the number of Christians in the Middle East has dwindled,” Bishop Angaelos said, “because every other country where there was a significant Christian presence has been devastated by war or conflict and they have moved.” He estimated Egypt’s Christian minority to make up around 80 percent of the overall Middle Eastern Christian population.