USCIRF Calls for Justice in Egypt Following Anti-Christian Attacks

Egyptian authorities have released from custody all suspects who were arrested earlier this week following attacks targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians in the small Egyptian village of Ezbet Boshra-East.

On June 21, Muslim villagers in Ezbet Boshra-East had looted and attacked private homes and a building used for Christian gatherings and religious services, leading to the injury of several Christians as well as Muslims and the damage of the building and some homes.

In addition, crops were uprooted by Muslim rioters on property owned by Christian farmers.

Though a curfew was put in place following the incident, initial reports claim that state security services did little to prevent the violence from occurring.

Furthermore, while local authorities are reportedly conducting an ongoing investigation, the persons involved in the violence appear to be free, noted the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

"The Commission has long expressed concern that the Egyptian government does not do enough to protect Christians and their property in Egypt, nor does the government adequately bring perpetrators of such violence to justice," commented USCIRF Chair Felice D. Gaer on Friday.

The bipartisan U.S. body especially expressed concern given the upsurge of violence against Coptic Christians that has been witnessed in the past few years.

"The Commission recommends that the Egyptian government implement procedures to ensure that all places of worship are subject to the same transparent, non-discriminatory, and efficient regulations regarding construction and maintenance," said Gaer.

Egypt has been cited by the USCIRF "Watch List" as a country with serious religious freedom violations, including widespread problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as non-conforming Muslims.

For all Christians in Egypt, government permission is required to build a new church or repair an existing one, and the approval process for church construction is time-consuming and inflexible.

Even some permits that have been approved cannot be acted upon because of interference by the state security services at both the local and national levels.