Egypt’s government has been accused of failing to protect its minority of Coptic Christians, after a successful string of attacks by Muslim Egyptians.
For centuries, Christians and Muslims in Egypt have lived alongside each other. Discrimination did occur but generally this coexistence was peaceful. The Christian community today makes up just ten percent of the population. Since the 1980’s however, Christians belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church have increasingly been the target of violence and attacks by Muslim extremists. Guirguis Fawzy is typical of the Christian community in Egypt. Middle class, successful and well networked. Guirguis lives with his family in Suhag in the Nile Valley north of Luxor where he deals in wood. He has relatives in major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria. Like most Copts he considers himself first and foremost an Egyptian, his Christian faith playing only a secondary role in how he sees his own identity. But this relaxed view of his own place in Egyptian society is both rejected and challenged by militant Islamists.
Keen to exploit growing polarization since the 2013 military coup that removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power, Islamic critics of current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s strong-arm tactics have been quick to portray this as evidence of a pro-Christian agenda. It doesn’t take much these days to provoke communal violence. Worse still, a wave of terrorist shootings and bombings targeting Copts has shocked the community leading many to question whether the government is doing enough to protect them.
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