Islamic-Intolerance Alert: “Muslim-Christian clashes erupt in Egypt,” from the Media Line, December 14:
Several people were wounded in renewed clashes between Muslims and Christians in Egypt over the past week.
Christians, also known as Copts, were on their way to a monastery to pray when children hurled stones at them, according to a report in the London-based A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Stones were also hurled at Christians in a separate incident in the north east of the country, in Minya Al-Qamh, as Christian worshipers made their way to a building set to be transformed into a church.
Coptic sources said thousands of Muslims surrounded the building in Kafr Farag Girgis to stop the Christian gathering.
Security forces were summoned to the area to ease tension between the parties.
In Luxor, several buses carrying Christians were attacked with stones, lightly wounding the travelers.
The monastery to which they were heading announced it would close its doors to visitors in the evenings, out of concern for the visitors, following the clashes last week.
Sectarian tensions are a recurring theme in Egypt. Christians make up around 10 percent of the country’s 80 million inhabitants, constituting the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
Rights groups say the Copts in Egypt face discrimination and harassment from the Egyptian authorities. Copts complain of fewer rights than Muslims, and say they are refused positions of authority in some sectors of the government, the military and academia.
The relationship between the two communities is usually calm but there have been a few violent flashpoints in recent years.
Tension between Muslims and Christians throughout the Middle East tend to flare up ahead of Christmas.
Rights groups say the Egyptian government is failing to provide effective measures to eradicate sectarian violence. They say that perpetrators enjoy immunity and that the Coptic Church often pressures victims of sectarian violence not to complain so as not to ruffle the authorities’ feathers.