The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church has repeated his calls for the Egyptian government to show accountability and conduct proper investigations into the attacks on Christians in recent weeks.
In a bid to quell the rising violence, two years on from the uprisings in 2011, Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK said that the January 2011 uprising had signalled ‘hope for a new Egypt, one that could offer its people the freedom and responsibility of equal citizenship, while no longer focusing on their religious or political stance’.
However, the bishop lamented that there has been no sign of the needed transformation. Instead, he said, ‘We still witness the marginalisation and alienation of many, Christians and Muslims alike, within Egyptian society, while repeatedly witnessing others committing crimes and not being brought to justice’.
He pointed to recent attacks on professing Christians in the country, where a hall and Sunday school building under construction was destroyed by thousands emerging from a nearby mosque after Friday prayers.
In a separate incident, on 18 January 2013, thousands of Muslim protestors in Qena attacked eight Coptic homes and businesses, torching Coptic owned pharmacies and vehicles.
A cross was destroyed and property within the church of Abu Fam was damaged. These attacks came as a result of false rumours that a Christian man committed a sexual assault against a six-year-old Muslim girl.
The bishop said, ‘We call for proper investigation into any acts of violence against individuals, groups, or communities, and the protection of places of worship to ensure that there are no further attacks of this kind.
‘It is stated on numerous occasions that there is “no compulsion in Islam” and that Egyptians are free to choose their religion.
‘In considering the intensity of severe challenges facing Christians, and in line with the movement towards greater democracy, cohesion and citizenship, we call for the serious consideration of the removal of one’s religion from official personal identification cards, so as to facilitate the treatment of all Egyptian citizens equally’.