Coptic Christians in Egypt refuse to submit to Muslim demands limiting the expression of their faith. They continue to build churches and even promote television networks to spread the Christian message. However, Christians continue to be targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State in the bombings of churches, rape and abduction of women, forced conversions, arson, and murder. 

The Wafa Media Foundation, which is associated with the Islamic State (ISIS) has recently called on Muslims to carry out renewed violence against Egypt's Christians, who have been present in the country since the first millenium. In 2017 alone, Muslim terrorists have carried out three massacres of Christians ina addition to targeted assassinations. On April 9, Palm Sunday, for instance, attacks were carried out on Coptic churches in the Tanta region and in the city of Alexandria. The attacked reaped 45 deaths and more than 130 wounded. On May 26, a terrorist assault on a busload of pilgrims in the Myrna Governate caused the death of 28 Coptic Christians. And on October 13, a young Muslim stabbed to death a Coptic Christian priest, Father Samaan Shehata, in Cairo.

Despite what was hailed in September 2016 as "landmark" legislation to ease building permits for Christian churches, Egypt's Christians remain critical. More than a year after the issuance of the law, Christians accuse the government of stalling on its promises “to end discrimination” against them. The forced closure of four churches in two southern Egyptian provinces (three churches in Minya and one in Sohag) by the authorities since October has further fueled the frustration of Christians, who make up about 10% of the country's population. 

“The authorities are appeasing extremist Muslims by closing churches under the pretext that [the churches] pose a threat to social peace and stability,” columnist Youssef Sidhom, himself a Christian, wrote in an op-ed for the Coptic Solidarity website. Egyptian security forces shuttered the three churches in Minya over “fears of imminent terrorist attacks,” according to Archbishop Makarios of Minya. The archbishop denounced the closures and exhorted the government “not to succumb to the fundamentalists.” Essam Badawi, the governor of Minya, has denied that the closures were prompted by security concerns, saying they were closed to worshippers because they were unlicensed.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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