Barnabas Aid – GOVERNMENT ALLEGED TO BE COMPLICIT IN RISING TIDE OF PERSECUTION
“We must pray that the hostility towards the Church does not descend into outright violence against Christians – as we have seen before”
Fears for the safety of Egyptian Christians are growing after a series of false allegations, violent threats and mass demonstrations against the Church in Egypt.
Muslim anger was ignited last month when entirely unfounded accusations were made on Al-Jazeera TV that Egyptian Christians were aligned with Israel and stockpiling weapons in preparation for waging war against Muslims. Tensions were also fuelled by baseless rumours circulated by Islamist leaders that Christians were kidnapping and torturing women who had converted to Islam.
In a separate controversy, a senior church leader was compelled to apologise publicly “if our Muslim brothers’ feelings were hurt” after another church leader questioned at an internal meeting verse in the Qur’an that accuses Christians of being “infidels”. Egyptian Christians’ rights were subsequently threatened by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, a government body, which confirmed Egypt to be an Islamic state where “the citizenship rights of non-Muslims were conditional to their abiding by the Islamic identity of the State.”
At least ten mass demonstrations involving thousands of Muslims have since taken place against Christians, with the previously unknown group “Front of Islamic Egypt” promising them a “bloodbath”.
The Egyptian authorities have been accused of complicity for political reasons in the escalating sectarian crisis ahead of next month’s national election for the lower house of Parliament and the 2011 Presidential election. Christian human rights activists said that the Egyptian authorities may be trying to use Islamic radicalism as a means to channel against the Christians the escalating social discontent in the country.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, said: “I am greatly concerned about events in Egypt over the last few weeks. We must pray that the hostility towards the Church does not descend into outright violence against Christians – as we have seen before”.
Barnabas Aid supports a range of projects that help Christians in Egypt. The country has the largest Christian population of any Muslim nation in the Arab world, estimated at six to ten million. They regularly face discrimination, human rights violations and sectarian hostility.