The Australian Coptic Movement Association (“ACM”) is deeply concerned over the escalation of targeted attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
Widespread violence and intimidation against Christians has become a daily occurrence in Egypt. Following the 30 June revolution that saw an estimated 30 million Egyptians take to the streets, radical supporters of former president Morsi have publically scapegoated the Coptic Christian minority for Morsi’s fall from power.
Islamists have called for revenge against Christians, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Muhammad Badie, who openly attacked Coptic Pope Tawadros II for supporting the popular uprising.
Most recently, in a recorded message, Egyptian-born Head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, falsely accused the U.S. of plotting with Egypt’s Christians, the country’s military, and secularists to overthrow Morsi.
Further, reports have emerged that al-Qaeda’s black flag has been raised on Coptic Churches, specifically St. George Church in Sohag. The Islamic terrorist organization’s incitements against the Copts are particularly concerning, given their links to the deadly church bombing in Baghdad in 2010 and the subsequent New Years’ Eve church bombing in Alexandria in 2011.
As a result of such incitement, many churches have been attacked and burned, and several Christians have been murdered. Just last week, 10-year-old Jessica Boulous of the Ain Shams district of Cairo was killed while walking home from Sunday school class in the early hours of the evening. In Sinai, 3 Coptic Christians were shot dead, including a young Coptic priest, while the body of Magdy Lam’i Habib, a Christian, was found mutilated and beheaded after his family were unable to pay the ransom demanded in return for his release.
On 5 July 2013, local residents brutally beat to death four Christians inside their home as police and a mob of residents surrounded the house. According to a Human Rights Watch report, the mob also wounded three others, set fire to and looted as many as 110 Christian-owned homes in the area. Witnesses reported that police did not stop a 17-hour anti-Christian rampage in the village until after the men were killed.
Rural villages throughout Southern Egypt with a concentration of Christian residents have particularly been targeted. On Saturday 3 August 2013, Coptic Christian residents of the Minya village of Beni-Ahmed were attacked by Islamists in a rampage that lasted two days. The attack left houses, shops, vehicles and the local church ruined and burnt. Many were injured in these attacks.
Pope Tawadros II, has cancelled all weekly public meetings at his Papal Residence in St. Mark’s Cathedral, Cairo, due to concerns over death threats received against both himself and his congregation.
On 7 August 2013, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (“EIPR”) released a joint statement by a coalition of 16 Egyptian human rights organisations calling on the Egyptian Government to take all necessary steps to ensure the protection of Copts. The statement also denounced “the continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence which have been seen in several governorates to account.”
The ACM strongly echoes EIPR’s calls for the implementation of effective protection and law enforcement measures. Perpetrators of such criminal activity must be apprehended, charged and convicted. The ACM also condemns the ongoing occurrence of shameful “reconciliation” sessions between the victims of such criminal attacks and their offenders, where victims are implicitly forced to give up their legal rights.
The ACM calls on the Australian Government to immediately condemn the incitement and violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Again, we urge the Australian Government to use its influence on the United Nations Security Council to open a commission of enquiry into the persecution of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.
The current volatile situation in Egypt calls for Western Governments to take a strong stance against the egregious (and often under-reported) violation of human rights of Christians in Egypt.
13 August 2013