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 2nd American Reportedly Killed in Syria

Local television report says Abdirahman Muhumed left the area to fight for Islamic State militants More

WHO Fears Ebola Outbreak Could Infect 20,000 People

World Health Organization says outbreak 'continues to accelerate' but that most cases are concentrated in a few local areas More

Angelina Jolie Marries Brad Pitt

Actors wed in small private ceremony Saturday in France 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid