AJC Urges Protection for Egypt's Christian Coptic Community

Jul 17, 2013, 18:50 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is dismayed by continuing violent attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christian community.

(Logo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100816/AJCLOGO)

Churches have been looted and destroyed, a priest assassinated, and individual Copts threatened in recent weeks.

Copts experienced a similar spike in assaults following the overthrow of President Mubarak two years ago. The situation has again deteriorated in recent days, as Egyptian Islamists have stepped up their threats and resorted to violence.

"Reliable reports indicate that there are Copts living in fear and urgently needing protection," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "People of good will must impress upon Egypt's leaders that every effort needs to be made to end the targeting of Copts."

A Coptic church was looted and burned this week in the village of Dalga, about 220 miles south of Cairo. The priest, Father Ayoub Youssef, fled for his life. There have been arson attacks on Christian homes and shops in remote southern villages in Egypt, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, NBC reports that thousands of Copts already have emigrated from the country over the past two years, because of an uncertain future, for Europe and the U.S.

"The reported lack of security around Coptic churches is especially troubling, sending a message of communal vulnerability," said Harris. "How the Coptic minority is treated will be a key indicator of the course Egypt takes in its historic struggle for democratic stability."

Three days after President Morsi was removed from office, a Coptic priest in northern Sinai was killed by gunmen. Earlier in May, two churches in Cairo were burned, leaving at least 12 dead in the attacks. And, on January 1, 2011, before Mubarak's overthrow, a suicide bombing at an Alexandria church during a New Year's Day mass left more than 20 dead.

An AJC Board delegation, meeting with senior government officials in Cairo in April, expressed deep concerns to the previous government about the safety of the Coptic community. The AJC leaders arrived on their previously scheduled visit shortly after the St. Marks Coptic Cathedral in Cairo was attacked.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee