August 14, 2013 – New York – AJC is appalled by the ongoing, targeted attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community. One of the oldest churches in Egypt, built in the 4th century, the Virgin Mary in Minya, was destroyed by fire today, an Egyptian human rights activist has tweeted. Media have reported attacks on churches in in the city of Suez and churches in other villages were also attacked, according to media reports.
“Organized violence against Egypt’s Copts, the murder of innocents and destruction of churches, is outrageous and unforgivable,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Director of Government and International Affairs, who last visited Egypt in April.
“Lost in much of the reporting on the polarization and violence in Egypt is the apparent targeting of Copts and their institutions by followers of Mohamed Morsi, the ousted president,” said Isaacson. “In the absence of Muslim Brotherhood restraint on these elements, it is imperative that Egyptian authorities step up efforts to ensure the safety of the Christian Coptic community.”
More than 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, writes Samuel Tadros in his newly published book, “Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity.”
Copts have been mistreated throughout Egypt’s history, but the increase in attacks in recent days suggest that supporters of the ousted government of Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi are blaming the dwindling Christian population for the military crackdown.
“Scapegoating and brutally attacking a minority Christian community in the most populous Arab country does not bode well for the future of Christians in Egypt or for Christian communities across the Arab world,” said Isaacson.
In addition to the murder of a Coptic priest within days after the overthrow of the Morsi government, a 10-year-old Christian girl was shot dead last week on the way home from her Cairo church.
An AJC Board delegation, meeting with senior government officials in Cairo in April, expressed deep concerns to the previous government about the safety of the Coptic community. The AJC leaders arrived on their previously scheduled visit shortly after the St. Marks Coptic Cathedral in Cairo was attacked.