US State Department Report: Christians Face Significant Challenges In Egypt

According to US State Department Annual Report on International Religious Freedom of 2015, Egyptian Coptic Christians still face enormous challenges.

“The Copts in Egypt still face significant challenges.” said the US State Department in its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom of 2015, reported AL-Ahram, a state-run newspaper.

Sectarian violence has escalated between Muslims and Christians mainly in rural communities in Upper Egypt which is an unexpected phenomenon after they backed the military coup leader Abel Fattah al-Sisi in ousting the first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.

They also backed and supported al-Sisi in the presidential elections that brought him to power in 2014. But unfortunately,  the Copts didn’t find their hope fulfilled in return for their great favor under the secular military rule.

Over the past weeks in the governorate of Minya of about 35% Christian population, a wave of sectarian violence took place.

Early in July, a Muslim mob stabbed a Coptic Christian to death during a street argument in the southern governorate of Minya.

Days earlier, in two separate incidents, a group of Muslims attacked and torched houses of Christians over a rumor that they intended to convert a building into a church.

In addition, an Orthodox Christian nun from Mar Girgis Monastery in Old Cairo was killed on 5 July, after reportedly being hit by a stray bullet on the Cairo-Alexandria Highway.

In late May, a 70-year-old Christian woman was allegedly stripped naked by a mob of Muslim citizens in her village in the conservative southern province of AL-Minya. The alleged assault was provoked by rumors that the woman’s son was involved in a love affair with a Muslim woman.

The Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights-a local rights group- said in a July report that Minya has been hit by 77 incidents of sectarian tension since January 2011.

David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, expressed concerns about blasphemy laws as well as legislation dealing with defamation of religion in countries such as Egypt, where many people have received jail terms on charges of defaming Islam.

Saperstein said,”I strongly affirm the U.S. Government’s opposition to blasphemy laws,urging that such laws be “eliminated or, as a start, not enforced.”