Cairo (AsiaNews) – Tensions between Copts and Muslims are growing following violent clashes in Cairo’s Abbasiyya neighbourhood. Fr Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Catholic Church of Egypt, said that six people died and 42 sustained injuries during the incident. Violence broke out during a Christian demonstration in favour of the rebuilding of the Saints Minas and George Coptic Church destroyed by Muslims last Saturday. The clergyman said the country’s military-led government might speed up the process of rebuilding the church to avoid an escalation.
Sources told AsiaNews that clashes began yesterday when thousands of Copts, backed by a number of Muslims, blocked two roads leading to Tahrir Square, raising the ire of car drivers.
Groups of radical Muslims came to the place and began a brawl with demonstrators, forcing the army to step in.
According to the sources, when Copts from some of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods, victims of Muslim violence in the past, joined the melee the demonstration got further out of hand.
“Tensions remain in the neighbourhood,” the sources said. “You can hear shots and many families kept their children from school.”
Egypt’s Coptic community has had to endure injustice and violence at the hands of Muslims for centuries, especially in Upper Egypt, scene of 21 of 59 incidents of sectarian violence registered last year.
Recently, the governor of Minya (Upper Egypt) ordered without reason the demolition of a hospital for disabled run by the Coptic Church in the village of Deir Barsha. On 28 February, some 10,000 Copts demonstrated against the governor, preventing him from completing the demolition job.
In the village of Saeed Abdelmassih, the same governor ordered the army to demolish the homes of members of the local Christian community after they refused to pay a voluntary contribution to the governorate. (S.C.)