The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians, Pope Tawadros II, has decided to cancel his weekly sermons and other public events at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. In explaining the decision, Pope Tawadros cited the worsening security situation in Egypt. Copts, who make up about ten percent of the country’s population, have been targeted
by Islamist groups—including supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi—in part because of the widespread perception that they backed the military takeover.Pope Tawadros’s decision indicates that the threats haven’t subsided since Morsi left office. While the military-backed transitional government appears committed to reestablishing calm on the streets, protecting the Christian minority isn’t its highest priority. The government has pledged to clear two large protest camps of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo, and, according to the FT
, Christians are worried about potential backlash:
Christians now fear they could pay a heavy price for any attempt by the state to disperse two large protest camps in Cairo by supporters of Mr Morsi. The government has signalled its determination to clear the sit-ins, but the use of force is likely to result in many deaths among the Islamist protesters who include large numbers of women and children.Diplomats and human rights groups have warned that any such bloodshed would increase radicalisation and spur attacks against soft targets such as the Christian community and tourists.
The persecution of Christians in Egypt is another worrying sign that the society may be disintegrating. Unfortunately, Egypt’s Christians aren’t alone; such persecution is rampant throughout the Middle East, not just within Egypt’s borders.[Pope Tawadros II image courtesy of the Austrian Foreign Ministry]