Cairo Cathedral Bombing Indicates Worsening Climate for Egypt’s Christian Minority
Cairo – Human Rights First condemns the brutal terrorist attack on Christian worshipers in a chapel adjacent to Cairo’s main Coptic Christian cathedral. The organization expresses its sympathy for all the victims and their families and its solidarity with the Egyptian people. The bombing, for which no group has claimed responsibility, killed at least 25 people and injured dozens. It was the most deadly incident targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority since 2011.
“We are deeply saddened by the bombing of the Coptic Christian Cathedral in Cairo, and alarmed that this incident points to growing sectarian unrest and targeting of Egypt’s Christian minority,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “President Sisi has pledged a tough response to this latest terrorist outrage, but Egyptian authorities should remember that a response to terrorism that itself includes excessive violence and disregard of the rule of law and human rights principles risks being counterproductive and will only fuel further violence and instability.”
Over the last few years of acute political instability in Egypt the country’s Christian minority have periodically been the targets of sectarian violence. Yesterday’s incident was the worst since a suicide bombing outside a Coptic Church in Alexandria killed 23 people on January 1, 2011, when President Mubarak was still in power.
Incidents of sectarian violence peaked in the summer of 2013 after the military stepped in to remove Egypt’s first elected civilian president from office, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi. Brotherhood supporters incited sectarian discrimination and violence against Christians who they accused of being antagonistic to rule by an Islamist party.
Human Rights First notes that successive Egyptian governments over many decades have failed to address long-standing anti-Christian institutional discrimination, such as steep obstacles in the way of the construction or repair of churches and other religious buildings that are not applied to the majority Muslim population. Copts have long complained that the state does little to protect their community from sectarian violence, rarely holding perpetrators to account. Instead of identifying and prosecuting those responsible for sectarian violence, the authorities prefer to convene reconciliation meetings to restore social peace, leaving the victims without justice.
“Egyptian authorities should demonstrate their support for Egypt’s vulnerable Christian minority by passing laws to address and remedy institutional discrimination, by providing adequate security around churches and other Christian property, especially at times of heightened tension, and by taking steps to hold those who incite and perpetrate sectarian violence accountable under the law,” added Hicks.