PROTESTS over ‘government failure’ to address discrimination and violence against Christians spread to Cairo from the northern city of Alexandria where a suicide bombing killed 21 people on New Year Eve.
Late Sunday, riots erupted outside the cathedral headquarters of the Coptic Church after the country’s top Muslim leaders and government authorities met with Pope Shenouda III.
Protesters threw stones and bottles at riot police stationed outside the cathedral, injuring 45 policemen, according to reports. In another place, demonstrators threw stones at cars on twomain highways while hundreds marched in other parts of capital city Cairo.
In what is seen as a rare criticism of the government, Shenouda spoke on state television urging the government to address the grievances of Coptic Christians.
“The state also has a duty,” he said. “It must see to the problems of the Copts and try to resolve them. If there are laws that are unjust to some, the state should correct many laws.”
Egypt’s Coptic Christians account for 10 percent of the country’s 80 million people.
Quoting a study conducted by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Washington Post said between 2008 and 2010 as many as 52 anti-Christian incidents were reported. However, no one was punished in any of the crimes.
Church building and conversion are said to be two points of conflict between Muslims and Christians.
Christians have to apply to local government authorities to build or renovate their churches. The process is lengthy and arduous and culminates usually at the top level – approval of the president or a governor. While Christians cite the delay as a reason for building churches illegally, Muslims use this as an excuse to attack them.