Coptic Christians in escalating protest
Initially-peacefull demonstrations by Coptic Christians looking to have a demolished church rebuilt have escalated into violent clashes wti the military.
Coptic Christian protesters clashed with security forces in Cairo yesterday, in a night that left at least 24 people dead and more than 200 injured as shooting broke out and cars were set on fire, according to news reports.
Several hundred Egyptian Christians protesting a recent attack on a church came under assault by people in plain clothes who fired pellets at them and pelted them with stones, according to the Associated Press. Some protesters may have snatched weapons from soldiers and turned them on the military, in addition to throwing rocks and bottles, the AP reported.
Protesters set military vehicles on fire as soldiers fired into the air to disperse the Coptic Christians, who were protesting the demolition of a church in Aswan, Egypt, last week, Al Jazeera reported. The church in southern Egypt was demolished Oct. 1, according to Shorouk News, the website of the Egyptian newspaper El-Shorouk.
Protesters were demanding that the governor of Aswan be removed and the church rebuilt, according to Al Jazeera. Egyptian security forces arrested dozens of protesters near the state television building, according to state-run Middle East News Agency.
The demonstrations had started peacefully with a march and a sit down at the state television building in the center of the capital but degenerated when protesters came under attack by men in plainclothes who pelted them with stones, according to demonstrators cited by AP.
Religious discrimination had been encouraged in Egypt by the government of former president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a popular revolt earlier this year, according to a U.S. State Department report on religious freedom published last year.
Mubarak’s regime had failed to prosecute perpetrators of violence against Coptic Christians in a number of cases and failed to redress laws, particularly with respect to church construction and renovation, which discriminate against Christians, according to the State Department report.
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Egypt PM Essam Sharaf urges calm after Cairo clashes
Growing fears of Egypt's Copts in climate of violence
Guide to Coptic Orthodox Church
Ed footnote: It is important to realise that the epithet's 'Christian' and 'Muslim' are used to define ethnic and political groupings which express their identity through the use of these religious adjectives in the same way as the troubles in Northern Ireland are delineated by the terms 'Protestant' and 'Catholic'. Those involved in both sides (whether in N. Ireland or Egypt) may have no great allegiance to the faith that they claim to represent.