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Cairo crackdown

"Cairo crackdown" Continued...

Military officials removed Morsi—a member of the Muslim Brotherhood—from power on July 3, but thousands of his supporters have remained in the streets and demanded his return.

In the days following Morsi’s ouster, some Christians said they were concerned Muslim Brotherhood supporters would blame Christians for his downfall. They noted the Egyptian Coptic pope had appeared on television with other national figures as the military announced Morsi’s departure.

Last week, a statement from the group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported continuing attacks against Christians “which have increased in frequency since the removal of the Morsi regime and have prompted [Coptic] Pope Tawadros II to cancel his weekly public sermons.”

The group noted attacks on the Coptic community had risen particularly in the Upper Egypt region “following allegations from several Islamist sources that Christians played a pivotal role in the removal of Morsi’s regime.”

Indeed, as security forces in Cairo dispersed pro-Morsi camps, police in other Egyptian cities responded to attacks on churches by Morsi supporters. Reuters reported police fired tear gas at thousands of Morsi supporters who had set fire to a church in Minya.

Ishak Ibrahim, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said Morsi supporters had also attacked churches in two other regions, and had vandalized some shops and businesses with Christian owners. “We’ve seen attacks like this before, but not of this severity and coordination,” Ibrahim told The Wall Street Journal. “These attacks are directly related to the dispersals of sit-ins.”

Some Christians in Cairo say the violence shows many Morsi supporters aren’t peaceful protesters opposed to regime change. One Christian—Ramez Salama—spoke to WORLD by phone on Tuesday.

Salama—a freelance tour guide and lecturer—attends a large Presbyterian church in Cairo, and says many of the public speeches in the Morsi camps have been disturbing. “If you go and hear the speech of hatred they promote against the Christians of Egypt—you can’t imagine,” he said. “It’s all hate speech.”

Salama also noted he has many Muslim friends who supported Morsi’s ouster and long for democratic rule.

Another Christian—Ramez Atallah of the Egyptian Bible Society—described in an email the disruption thousands of pro-Morsi protesters have brought to major areas of Cairo for weeks: “Try to imagine 10,000 people camped for two months in Times Square in New York.”

Atallah described major traffic congestion, closed businesses, and residents unable to move freely near their homes. He also noted some of those gravitating to the encampments were “mostly very poor people who benefit from three meals a day … among them are all the beggars and street people of the city, and mixed in are some shady characters. So it is a very scary scene.”

Despite the pressures, Atallah said his group was working to distribute materials to encourage Christians and others to promote peace among Egyptians. “Our task is to inform people that ‘revenge’ never accomplishes anything good,” he wrote. “And that they must love even those they feel are their enemies—a VERY difficult, counter-cultural message.”

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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