Thousands of Coptic Christians gathered in front of the White House Wednesday, Oct. 19, to protest the ensuing violence against Christians in what many predict to be a progressively sectarian society in Egypt.
Christians fear that violent clashes between military and protesters Sunday, Oct. 9 are just the beginning of a heated, bloody battle, with Muslims and the military in combat with diminishing numbers of Coptic Christians.
“The risk is that Islamist parties will gain substantial influence, and political debates ultimately will become debates about the proper interpretation of Shariah [Islamic law], and that’s a conversation in which the Copts won’t have any part,” Eric Trager, fellow of the Washington Institute for Near Ear Policy told The Washington Times.
Although Egypt’s current ruling Military regime promised to step down after upcoming parliamentary elections, they have now pushed back the date of the elections. Christians fear that continued military rule will slight any chances of religious freedom in Egypt.
Head of the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights Naguib Gabriel released a report stating Egypt’s Christian population has decreased by 93,000 since March 2011, and is expected to reach a total of 250,000 emigrants by December 2011.
Coptic Christians have taken to social media platforms to express their fear concerning a sectarian society. In a humorous and morose form of protest, many Christians have published their wills on Facebook and Twitter. Such public displays reveal the expectancy of future violence, which could possibly diminish the Christian population even more.
“Do not trust the military and do not think that any good will come from the Muslim Brotherhood,” one skeptical activist wrote on his Twitter will.
In response to the ensuing violence, Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, commented: “It is about time that the Egyptian leadership understands the importance of religious plurality and tolerance."
Mourners are blaming the Egyptian army for the high death toll of 27 slain Sunday, Oct. 9, arguing that the Christian march was absolutely peaceful until the military started a crackdown. The ensuing clashes reportedly saw Islamic extremists join the attacks against the Christians, and even saw a military vehicle driven directly into crowds of protesters.
Some human rights activists reported military personnel firing directly into the crowd of protesters.
Violence erupted in Cairo two weeks ago when Christians gathered to protest against the burning of a Coptic church in Southern Aswan, which took place on Sept. 30. Local hard-line Muslims, who claimed the church did not have the license for the construction of a dome, allegedly carried out the burning.
Christians have accused both the state television and the military of making peaceful Christian protesters seem like the aggressors.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. Over recent months, Christians in the country have been anxious about their future in the country, as Islamic groups which remained underground or inactive during the rule of the now ousted president Hosni Mubarak, became more socially and politically active following the fall of the regime in a “January 25 Revolution.”