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Middle East

Attacks on Egypt Christians on rise: bishop

  • Coptic priest Father Samaan Ibrahim puts a cross on the forhead of an egyptian woman during a service on July 26, 2012 at the St Samaans (Simon) Church in Cairo. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

  • Worshippers attend a service as Coptic priest Father Samaan Ibrahim reads his sermon on July 26, 2012 at the St Samaans (Simon) Church also known as the Cave Church in the Mokattam village, nicknamed as "Garbage City," in Cairo. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

CAIRO: A senior Egyptian Coptic bishop said Friday attacks on Christians are on the rise and criticized the inclusion of only one Copt in Islamist President Mohammed Mursi's government.

"The general climate is turning against Christians," said Bishop Morcos. "Assaults on Christians have increased. It's not just a matter of having one ministry," he told AFP.

Wednesday, Muslims attacked a church and Christian homes in a village outside Cairo, leading to clashes that injured 16 people after a Muslim man died of wounds from a fight with a Christian.

A day later, President Mursi, who had pledged to include Coptic representatives in his government, swore in a new cabinet with only one Christian, the scientific research minister from the outgoing government.

"There is a difference between promises and implementation," said Morcos. "Perhaps there were obstacles in implementing the pledge, or the promise is one thing, and the actual implementation is another."

Dozens of Copts have died in sectarian clashes since a popular uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak early last year.

The United States warned on Monday that despite gestures by Egypt's interim military leaders towards greater inclusiveness, sectarian tensions and violence had increased.

Washington's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report expressed concern over "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks."

The Copts, who make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt's 82-million-strong population, were also the target of sectarian attacks before Mubarak's ouster.

Muslim-majority Egypt has for decades been marked by deep sectarian tensions, with religious violence between Muslims and Christians often sparked by disputes over land or love affairs between members of the two communities.

In January 2011, a suicide bomber killed more than 20 Christians outside a church in the country's second city Alexandria, after Islamists accused the Coptic Church of detaining a woman who converted to Islam.

 

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