Shooting at Coptic Christmas highlights Egypt’s sectarian tensions

January 18, 2010
Nagaa Hamady

Ramadan decorations and a Coptic Orthodox church cross in Nagaa Hamady, 9 Jan 2010/Asmaa Waguih

Church towers standing in the shadow of mosques symbolise how Christians in the southern town of Nagaa Hamady feel about their relationship with Egypt’s Muslim majority that turned violent this month.

The government said the shooting of six Christians on the eve of Coptic Christmas on Jan. 7 was an isolated case, using its stock phrase for the latest act of sectarian violence. Such killings are rare, but many Christians who make up some 10 percent of Egypt’s 78 million people feel they do not get equal treatment and complain the government is not doing more to quash sectarianism for fear of Islamist reprisals.

“The government gives us a hard time letting us build a church, and as soon as it is built, they build a mosque next to it,” said a 40-year-old Coptic owner of a bakery in the town, still in mourning from a Christmas eve killings. Like other Copts in Nagaa Hamady, he asked for his name not to be used, wary of publicly discussing the shooting that was blamed on an alleged rape by a Christian man of a Muslim girl.

“This accident is not due to a rape incident or a love affair by the way … This incident was fuelled by hidden feelings of hate from extremist Muslims against Christians whom they view as infidels,” the baker said.

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