News / Middle East

Egypt's Top Coptic Leader Calls for Calm After Sporadic Clashes

Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand sheik of Cairo's Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent theological institute of Sunni Islam, left, and Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Church, talk to the media in Cairo, Egypt, 02 Jan 2011
Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand sheik of Cairo's Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent theological institute of Sunni Islam, left, and Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Church, talk to the media in Cairo, Egypt, 02 Jan 2011

The head of Egypt's Coptic Christian community, Pope Shenouda III, is calling for calm after another night of sporadic demonstrations and clashes with police.  The violence follows a church bombing that killed 23 people Saturday in Alexandria.

Following sporadic overnight clashes and demonstrations in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, many politicians and religious leaders have been calling for calm.

On again, off again clashes between angry Coptic Christians and Egyptian security forces have increased tensions in parts of the city.

Pope Shenouda III, who leads Egypt's estimated 10 million Coptic Christians, is urging his followers to stay calm.  He is denouncing what he calls "rabble rousers".

He says that all problems can be solved through peaceful means, rather than by belligerence and tumult.  He adds that people other than Copts have infiltrated demonstrations about the church bombing, even though they have nothing to do with the matter.  He complains that these people have gone beyond what is polite and acceptable and used violence, which is not a trait of Copts.

Pope Shenouda blames the disturbances on socio-economic conditions that have made many Egyptians desperate.

He says that people can be manipulated or pushed to behave rashly through poverty or hunger.  He argues that such ongoing problems must be solved calmly and with all available means.

The Coptic pope alluded to some of the grievances of his community against the government, complaining that it has not treated Copts fairly.

He says he believes in a society of law, and a society without law will be in turmoil.  He says the law must be fair and treat everyone equally, and added any law that harms part of the population must be corrected.

Copts have repeatedly complained about discrimination against them in employment, building of churches, and in laws concerning individuals who have converted to Christianity.  Coptic attorney Naguib Gobrail mentions several of those demands.

He says Copts are asking President Hosni Mubarak to increase security and reach agreements over building and repairing churches, including adopting a single law applicable to both churches and mosques.

Veteran Egyptian publisher and editor Hisham Kassem says the situation is worrisome.

"I have never seen anything of this magnitude before," said Kassem.  "But, again, a terrorist attack is a terrorist attack.  We still do not know who did it, and terrorist attacks cannot permanently be prevented.  There definitely is failure on the part of the Ministry of the Interior, but that is another story."

Kassem adds discriminatory practices against Copts are making the situation explosive.  

He notes that few Copts are given prominent positions in the government and says anyone can build a mosque in a public park, overnight, but it can take years to get a permit just to repair a church.

The Egyptian government has deployed security forces around most churches in major towns and cities and cancelled leave for top officers as the country prepares for Coptic Christmas on January 7.  Security has also been tightened at airports and ports to monitor the arrival or departure of suspected terrorists.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs