News / Africa

Egypt's Coptic Christians Fear Fewer Rights After Elections

Residents of the Cairo settlement of Manshiet Nasser collect garbage in the streets of the neighborhood. The settlement, populated by Egyptian Christians, is where Cairo, Africa's biggest city, dumps its garbage. Residents then sort it out. They are known
Residents of the Cairo settlement of Manshiet Nasser collect garbage in the streets of the neighborhood. The settlement, populated by Egyptian Christians, is where Cairo, Africa's biggest city, dumps its garbage. Residents then sort it out. They are known

With Islamist groups expected to do well in Egypt's parliamentary elections, many Coptic Christians are concerned that their limited rights will come under greater threat. 

The trash of millions of people collects in Cairo's Garbage City, the narrow lanes filled with plastic, metal, wood - anything the district residents can resell to eke out a living.

The slum, on the outskirts of the capital, is home to a large Coptic Christian community.  Many are trash collectors, or zabaleen.  And above the squalor is a testament to their faith - the largest Christian church in the Middle East, cut into the hillside that begins the plateau east of Cairo.

For Christians, Egypt is the land revered for sheltering a young Jesus and his family.  But it has long been the province of an Islamic majority, a fact that some Coptic Christians say Muslims are quick to point out.

Said, who gives only his first name, says Christians are discriminated against.

He says Coptic Christians do not have the same rights as other people in the country, and that others look down on them as if they are not human.  Said says discrimination was institutionalized under the old government, with restrictions on church construction and the ability to change one's faith.  The current military government has proved no better, he says, cracking down on a Coptic protest march last month, in a violent night that left 25 people dead.  

Now, some Christians say, it can only get worse.  The elections that started this week are expected to favor Islamist parties, including the conservative Salafis.

Medhat Sa'ad, a resident of Garbage City, fears that if Salafis are in charge, a woman walking on the streets without a veil "could be slaughtered."

Although Salafi-inspired violence has dominated newspaper headlines in recent months, some experts say widespread fear is not justified.

"I know a lot of people, even very practicing Muslims, who take their faith very seriously, who do not want to see this kind of interpretation of Islam being overrepresented in parliament.  I would say, in general, most Egyptians are more leaning to the more moderate interpretation of Islam or moderate involvement of Islam in political life," political analyst Rania el-Malki says.

Even if extremist views prevail, some Coptic Christians in Garbage City say they will never leave.

Adel Gad el-Rab is a former garbage collector who says God protects everyone in Egypt.  When reminded that the country's once thriving Jewish community is all but gone, he declares he will never leave until, as he puts it, he goes to "his homeland in heaven."

El-Rab says the people here are the poorest in Cairo.  "We are the garbage collectors," he says, "but we live on a mountain of faith."

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid