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MRG strongly condemns attacks on Christians in Egypt and Nigeria and urges African governments to address rising religious tensions

4 January 2011

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) warns of rising religious tension in Africa and condemns the recent attacks against Coptic Christians in Alexandria, Egypt, and Christians and Muslims in Jos, Nigeria.

According to reports, an attack on Christian worshippers as they left midnight mass to bring in the New Year at al-Qiddissin (The Saints) church in Alexandria, killed 21 people and injured 70. No-one has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

A string of bomb attacks killed at least 32 and wounded 74 people near the central Nigerian city of Jos on Christmas Eve. The Islamic sect known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombings says the BBC.

‘These attacks are a clear indication that African governments must fulfil their obligations under international law,’ says Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications.

‘Protecting religious minorities is not a choice but an obligation, and presents a challenge for many countries in the region.’

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christian community, representing about 10% of the population, feel the Egyptian government has not done enough to check discrimination levelled at Christians in a Muslim dominated country.

The northern city of Jos is found in Nigeria's volatile middle belt – between the mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south – and has been the scene of a spate of violent clashes between the two religious communities.

The introduction of Islamic law in several states in Nigeria has compounded divisions and caused thousands of Christians to flee. Inter-faith violence, according to analysts, is said to be rooted in poverty, unemployment and the competition for land and natural resources.

In April 2010, MRG’s Peoples under Threat, a pioneering statistical early warning and prevention tool identifying situations around the world where populations are at risk of mass killing, ranked Nigeria among the top countries in which there is a risk of widespread violence against ethnic and religious communities.