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March 28, 2013 1:47 pm

Egypt Christians Need Protection, Amnesty International Says

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Coptic Christian Church, the St. Bishoy Monastery, located between Cairo and Alexandria. More than 8 million Coptic Christians live in Egypt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Amid a rise in attacks on Egypt’s Christians, the human rights group Amnesty International has called on Egypt’s Islamist government to do more to protect its Coptic Christian community.

“Coptic Christians across Egypt face discrimination in law and practice and have been victims of regular sectarian attacks while authorities systematically look the other way,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, which ousted secular president Hosni Mubarak, Christian leaders have complained of rampant discrimination and attacks against their community. Attacks by radical Islamists, particularly in rural tribal areas, have been on the rise.

Since becoming president, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, has pledged to protect Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which comprises about 10 percent of the country’s 83 million. An Egyptian judge recently sentenced a Muslim man from Upper Egypt to death for killing two Christians, Reuters reported.

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But Amnesty International, along with other human rights groups, has documented more than a dozen major attacks against Coptic Christians in the last two years. According to Amnesty International, the authorities’ response to the violence has been poor and that they often favor “reconciliation” over prosecution in cases of sectarian violence.

“It is high time for the authorities to take sectarian violence and threats seriously. The Egyptian authorities are responsible for ensuring the protection of people, their homes and livelihoods. Time and time again, President Morsi claimed to be President of all Egyptians. Now, he needs to take action to ensure that sectarian violence is prevented and when it occurs it is properly investigated, and those responsible face justice,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of Amnesty International.

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