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 Mohammad 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.
Mursi, who had pledged to include Coptic representatives in his government, swore in a new Cabinet with only one Christian Thursday – 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 U.S. warned Monday that despite gestures by Egypt’s interim military leaders toward 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 sectarian tensions, with violence between Muslims and Christians often sparked by disputes over land or love affairs.
In January 2011, a suicide bomber killed more than 20 Christians outside a church in Alexandria, after Islamists accused the Coptic Church of detaining a woman who converted to Islam.
Separately Friday, Mursi pledged to guarantee security for tourists, whose numbers have slumped since last year’s uprising in a major setback for the country’s economy.
“After the revolution, Egyptians are intent on assuring security for all visitors,” Mursi said on a visit to Luxor in southern Egypt, quoted by state news agency MENA.
“Egypt is safer than before and open to all, and Luxor will remain the capital of tourism and antiquities,” he said of the town which is rich in Pharaonic sites, but has been hard hit by tourists staying away.