Although it is unclear exactly how many Copts have left Egypt in the wake of a string of violent incidents and many deaths, it is hardly surprising that a good number of those who are able to move – generally the wealthier and more educated – are choosing to do so.
Coptic Christians celebrated Easter yesterday, some in the cathedral which was so recently the scene of deadly clashes. This account offers an interesting insight into Egypt’s current power struggles. Whereas some are ratcheting up the aggression – here it’s reported that the secretary general of the Islamic Jihad party has condoned the killing of Christians in certain circumstances – others take a more conciliatory line:
The divisions played out in the church when the pope read out a list of names of Cabinet officials who had greeted the pope by phone. The crowd erupted in roaring applause at the naming of Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb of al-Azhar, the head of the Sunni Muslim world’s pre-eminent seat of learning, who is believed to be in a power tussle with the president’s Muslim Brotherhood backers. The crowd also applauded when Sheik Mazhar Shahin was named. The cleric who preaches at a mosque overlooking Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests, had been temporarily suspended after a citizen complained that his sermons were critical of Morsi.
In this report Egypt is listed as one of the fifteen worst offenders for religious freedom
The report includes findings ranging from 31 January 2012 to 31 January 2013. “Despite some progress during a turbulent political transition, the Egyptian government has failed or been slow to protect religious minorities, particularly Coptic Orthodox Christians from violence,” said the USCIRF. “It continues to prosecute, convict, and imprison Egyptian citizens including Copts and dissenting Muslims, for ‘contempt’ or ‘defamation’ of religion.”
Finally – not surprisingly Pakistan also fared extremely badly in the religious freedom report. The plight of its Christians is one pressing concern – and here is a very informative article on the particular problems faced by followers of Ahmadi Islam, who are perceived as heretics by many Muslims, and who perhaps thus fall victim to a version of the ‘uncanny valley’ phenomenon as they attract such marked hostility. As the Guardian’s report explains, they are effectively disenfranchised, because in order to vote they must acknowledge that they are ‘heretics’.