Egypt's Coptic Church Unhappy With Islamist Government

A month after Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as the president of Egypt, the Coptic church's fear has come true. The church's interim head said on Saturday that Christians were not fairly represented in the newly formed Cabinet, and facing a rise in attacks.

"I will not congratulate the new prime minister on the formation of the government because it is unfair... this ministerial formation came unjust to Copts," Egypt's Al-Shorouk newspaper quoted Bishop Bakhomious as saying on Saturday.

Bakhomious, who became the interim head of the Coptic church after the death of Pope Shenouda III in March, expressed unhappiness with the government two days after Morsi appointed his first cabinet with just one Christian in it.

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Nadia Eskandar Zukhari, the minister for scientific research which many see as "semi-ministry," is not only the sole Copt in the cabinet, but only one of two women.

"We had expected an increase in the representation of Copts especially after the number of ministries increased to 35. But the formation ignored all the known rights and concepts of citizenship," the Coptic head said. "It is not right that Copts get treated in this way."

Bakhomious said there should be four Christian ministers in the Cabinet. While estimates say about 10 percent of Egypt's 82 million people are Christian, the Coptic head put the number at 14 percent, according to Agence France Presse.

Key ministries were given to bureaucrats from the outgoing military-backed interim government. The Cabinet also includes three Islamist politicians, one of whom was given the post of education minister despite complaints by Christians that school books include verses only from the Quran and discriminate against them.

Attacks on Christians are also on the rise with the rise of Islamism in the country. "The general climate is turning against Christians," Bishop Morcos, a Coptic leader, told AFP. "Assaults on Christians have increased. It's not just a matter of having one ministry."

A day before Morsi appointed the new Cabinet, Muslims attacked a church and Christian homes in a village outside Cairo. The incident led to clashes that injured 16 people after a Muslim man died of wounds from a fight with a Christian.

"There is a difference between promises and implementation," Morcos added. "Perhaps there were obstacles in implementing the pledge, or the promise is one thing, and the actual implementation is another."

Dozens of Christians have died in sectarian clashes since an uprising overthrew President Hosni Mubarak early last year.

Washington's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, released last week, also expressed concern over "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks."

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