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July 24, 2013 11:28 pm

Human Rights Watch: Egypt Authorities Need to Do More to Protect Christians

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A Coptic Christian Church in Egypt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined the growing number of international human rights groups calling on Egyptian authorities to do more to protect Egypt’s ancient Christian community.

“Egyptian security forces should be on high alert to prevent and halt sectarian violence in the current tense and polarized situation,” Nadim Houry, acting Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement. “Egypt’s religious and political leaders should denounce the dangerous escalation of sectarian attacks.”

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According to HRW, at least six attacks on Christians have taken place since former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster on July 3, including in Luxor, Marsa Matrouh, Minya, North Sinai, Port Said, and Qena. In most of these incidents, security forces failed to take the necessary action to prevent or stop the violence.

The call by HRW echoes a similar appeal by fellow human rights group Amnesty International, which reported on a July 5 attack on Christian homes near Luxor that resulted in more than 100 Christian homes ransacked as well as four deaths and one hospitalization.

One of the oldest communities in Christianity, Egypt’s Coptic Christian church was established by one of Jesus’s apostles, Saint Mark, in 42 CE. Coptic Christians constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages, when Islam, introduced by the Arab invasions in the 7th century, eclipsed their religion.

Today, Coptic Christianity comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.

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