Entries in Coptic Christians (5)


Egypt's Coptic Christians to Vote for New Pope

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) -- Egypt's Coptic Christians on Monday will vote for a new Pope to succeed Pope Shenouda III, who passed away in March.

It's a critical time for the ancient Christian community, which is nervous about the rise of an Islamist government in Egypt -- the Muslim Brotherhood replaced the secular dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.

Coptic Christians make up roughly 10 percent of the population in Egypt and they've been subject to deadly attacks over years of Muslim-Christian tensions some see getting worse since the Arab Spring.

Pope Shenouda led the Coptic Church for four decades through the end of the Mubarak regime, and was seen as a protector of his community in turbulent times.

To pick the new pope, a Council of Egyptian Coptic Christians will vote from a list of candidates, narrowing them down to the top three.  From there, a blindfolded child will pick one of the three names from a box on the altar of a cathedral in Cairo.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptian Army Vehicles Crush Christian Protestors

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CAIRO, Egypt) -- A leading human rights organization accused the Egyptian military Tuesday of trying to cover up its responsibility in the deaths of two dozen Christian protestors and called for an independent investigation.

Video circulating via social media and the Internet shows an Egyptian armored personnel carrier (APC) plowing into a crowd outside Cairo's State Television building on Oct. 9.

"This had been an essentially peaceful protest until the military used excessive force and military vehicles ran over protestors," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. According to HRW, preliminary autopsies showed that of 23 protestors killed during the demonstration, "eight of the people had died of bullet wounds, two from blows to the head, and 13 from injuries and fractures inflicted by the vehicles."

After weeks of mounting sectarian tension, thousands of Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, had taken to the streets in Cairo on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 9 to protest an attack on a Coptic church. Though most of the protestors were unarmed, the situation degenerated into violence. In addition to the civilian deaths, at least one Egyptian military officer died.

After the violence, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) promised a military investigation into the incident, but publicly absolved soldiers of intentionally targeting protestors. In an Oct. 12 press conference, the SCAF denied that APCs had been used intentionally to harm protestors. "The soldiers driving armored vehicles were trying to avoid protestors, who were throwing stones and Molotov cocktail bombs at them," said General Adel Emara of the SCAF.

During the protests themselves, Egypt's official state television network, which is housed in the State Television building where the protests were taking place, called for "honorable citizens" to "defend the Army against attack." State television also claimed that armed Coptic demonstrators had shot and killed three military officers.

Human Rights Watch criticized the actions of the state broadcaster Tuesday, saying that such calls "would have amounted to incitement to discrimination and violence against Copts."

The New York-based organization called on the SCAF to transfer its investigation into the Oct. 9 violence "from the military prosecution to a fully independent and impartial investigation" and urged an investigation into whether the military had manipulated state media coverage.

In Egypt, military prosecutors and judges are subject to the military chain of command headed by Defense Minister Field Marshall Tantawy, head of the SCAF, which has been governing Egypt since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last February.

Since the SCAF took power on Feb. 11, ending the country's 18-day mass uprising, activists charge that the military has clamped down on discontent and opposition in a manner comparable to the Mubarak regime. While laws curtailing the freedom of Christians to build houses of worship date back more than a century, the number of attacks on Christian communities and places of worship has increased since the transfer of power.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Christians in Egypt Up in Arms Over Rally That Turned into Deadly Riot

MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Reverberations from a deadly crackdown on a massive demonstration were being felt in Egypt Monday as Coptic Christians said the ruling military council did little to stop agitators from turning the rally into sectarian warfare.

At least 26 people died and more than 200 were injured when the protest in Cairo against the torching of a Coptic Church descended into chaos as plain-clothes men began attacking Christian demonstrators.

From that point, the army moved in and the scene turned into one of gunfire and tanks mowing over demonstrators.

The Coptic Christians, who represent 10 percent of Egypt's population, fear they will increasingly become targets if radical Islamists gain control of the country, which is in the midst of a power vacuum since the resignation last winter of President Hosni Mubarak.

As a further sign of distrust, the families of 17 Copts who died Sunday have forbidden the government to conduct autopsies for fear that the results will be skewed to hide any responsibility the army might have for their deaths.

It was the most violent episode since demonstrations last February took down Mubarak's government.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement, saying, "Now is a time for restraint on all sides so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Crackdown on Christian Demonstrators in Cairo Leaves Two Dozen Dead

MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Cairo broke out into the deadliest fighting Sunday since last February's anti-government rallies when Coptic Christians, Egypt's largest minority, clashed with security forces and street fighters.

At least 24 people were killed in the violence as the military issued a night curfew ahead of the Cabinet's emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the crisis.

The day began peacefully as thousands of Copts marched to protest a recent attack on a church and demands that the government crack down on those launching other assaults on Copt places of worship.

However, by the time the marchers reached the state TV building in Cairo Maspero Square, they claimed they were set on by plain clothes attackers before security forces joined in the battle.

Thousands joined in the conflict that spread to Tahrir Square, the scene of last winter's massive demonstrations that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

Witnesses described tear gas everywhere, burning vehicles and beatings.  Of those killed, there were no numbers of demonstrators and soldiers who died.  As many as 200 people were also reported injured.

Coptic Christians fear that their rights will be further trampled on if Islamist extremists rise to power in next month's parliamentary elections.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Muslims and Christians Clash in Egypt

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO, Egypt) -- Violence continued between two religious groups in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday.

A violent encounter erupted just off of Tahrir Square when groups of Coptic Christians tried to stage a sit-in outside of the State TV building and became involved in a clash with some Muslims, according to a report by the Al Ahram newspaper. Both groups reportedly hurled rocks at each other during the clash. It is unknown if anyone was injured in the violence.

The sit-in was reportedly in response to 12 people being killed and 230 people bing injured on Saturday during a march by Salafists near a Coptic church located in a Cairo suburb.

In response to the weekend violence, government officials released a statement on Sunday, saying that an “iron hand” would be used to protect national security.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

ABC News Radio