August 14, 2013, a wave of violence is spreading through Egypt. In the city of Minya, in the north of Egypt, a Coptic church is destroyed and set on fire by a crowd of aggressive militants. Later that day, sunlight shining through the broken windows shows the black smouldering ash that covers the remnants of the floor. The surrounding streets are empty. People from the this Coptic community are terrorized by this attack and are looking for a shelter in a safer place.
Regrettably, this incident does not stand alone. In the wake of July 3, when Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the Military, a set of attacks has swept across the country, leaving the Coptic Christians in fear. Approximately 42 churches were plundered and laid down in ashes. Houses, shops and even orphanages were destroyed. All these buildings belonged to the Copts.
For centuries Coptic Christians and Muslims have lived relatively peacefully in one shared country. The history of the Copts can be traced back to the 42 B.C. and their religious school of Alexandria is said to be the oldest catechetical school in the world. Nowadays, they are the largest religious minority in Egypt and they count for 10% of the 80 million population.
The Copts are the largest religious minority in Egypt.
But why is this community under constant attack then? Already during the last days of Mubarak’s reign violence rose against them. The situation worsened increasingly after the deposition of Morsi, when supporters of the Muslim brotherhood feared for their established societal position. One group was to be held responsible, as scapegoats, and consequently, fundamental Muslim groups have been blaming the Christians for deposing Morsi.
The religious minority did not respond with violence. Accordingly, they pray for forgiveness on those who attacked them. As a matter of fact, they rather keep in mind their moderate Muslim neighbours who protected them during times of prosecution.
Nevertheless, the situation in Egypt is still tense. Both Christian and moderate Muslim families are living moments of fear and pray for reconciliation.
Image by Tom Szustek