Hundreds to thousands of Coptic demonstrators in the Egyptian provinces of Cairo, el-Minia, el-Behara and Assiut gathered Dec. 5-6 to protest the recent escalation in anti-Coptic hate crimes and the Egyptian President’s inattention to Coptic pleas for protection from government persecution. According to sources, the on-going two-day protest is a response to the Egyptian government's sanction of anti-Coptic hate crimes such as arson, torture, murder, and the abduction, rape, and forced conversion of young Coptic women.
"The situation in Egypt is exploding every minute for the last three days," Emil Zaki, vice president of the U.S. Copt Association told WorldNetDaily.
The U.S. Copt Association reported that while Egypt's native Christian Copts-numbering between 12-15 million and constituting approximately 15 percent of Egypt's population-have long been targets for Muslim extremists, a recent rise in anti-Coptic sentiment has prompted an escalation in violence against Copts.
In the most recent incident, Wafaa Constantine Messiha, the wife of a Coptic priest, was reportedly abducted and forced to convert to Islam.
"Muslims are regularly attacking Copts, and they kidnapped the wife of a priest to force her to convert to Islam," Zaki stated.
In another reported incident, a large mob stormed and set fire to a building housing a Coptic prayer room in the village of Mankateen in Samalout province. According to the U.S. Copt Association, the mob swept through the village, looting and burning Coptic homes and businesses, destroying a Coptic priest's car, and injuring several Copts in the process.
Other crimes protested by the Coptic community included the rise in the kidnapping, rape, and forced conversion of young Coptic women such as 19-year old Manal Gurguis Abd El Malak, whose kidnappers have yet to face justice due to discriminatory police neglect.
In a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush, Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association, appealed for Bush's immediate intervention with Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, on behalf of Egypt's persecuted Copts.
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"Mubarak's regime has not only ignored, but in many cases contributed to the alarming increase in anti-Coptic violence," said Meunier. "Only President Bush's personal intervention can help prevent the escalation of these hate crimes into full-fledged cultural genocide."
Sources say the Coptic Church, which dates back to the origins of Christianity, is by far largest Christian group in both Egypt as well as North Africa/Middle East. According to government figures there are about 2 million Copts in Egypt, though many believe the figure to be incorrect, as many Copts do not register their religious affiliation in official papers, in order to avoid future discrimination.
In its early history, the Egyptian church was of great importance to the development of early Christianity and is based on the teachings of Apostle Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century.