Egyptian government must ensure protection of all religious communities says international rights organization following killings
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the recent killings of at least six Christians and one Muslim in Cairo, and calls on the Egyptian government and President Mohamed Morsi to protect religious minorities and their places of worship, following a number of sectarian clashes in the capital over the weekend.
‘The Egyptian government must ensure the protection of all its citizens, including the country's religious minorities, and it must ensure that perpetrators of the current violence are brought to justice,' says Carl Soderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.
In the first incident, which took place in Khosous, a suburb of Cairo, violent clashes occurred after some young Copts reportedly drew what appeared to be a cross on the wall of an Islamic institute. Guns and live ammunition were used and this resulted in the killing of at least four Christians and one Muslim, whilst a small number of people were injured.
The second wave of violence happened after hundreds of people mourning the killings of the four Christians gathered at central Cairo's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral Complex, which also contains the residence of Pope Tawadros II. Violence flared when unidentified people pelted them with stones, leading to the death of one Christian and more than eighty injured. Copts accused the government of failing to provide security and chanted against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Although the President has condemned the violence and spoken personally with Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and ordered an investigation to find the perpetrators, MRG says that the government's actions do nothing to discourage these kinds of attacks on minorities.
‘The government's repeated failure to investigate and prosecute perpetrators, their inability or unwillingness to issue building permits for churches, and their lack of will to reform a legal system which sentences Christians to long prison sentences for converting from Islam will do little to deter further violations of the rights of Egypt's religious minorities,' says Carl Soderbergh.
There has been a rise in attacks on Christians and churches in Egypt since the fall of the former regime after the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011, despite Christians' high expectations for equal rights.
Christians make up about 10 per cent of the population.
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• Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.