Authorities failing to protect Egypt's Christians from violence - Amnesty International

One of the destroyed Bible Society bookshops in Egypt(Photo: Bible Society)

Authorities in Egypt are failing to prevent "deeply disturbing" attacks against the Coptic Christian minority, says Amnesty International.

In a new report, Amnesty called for an investigation into a series of sectarian attacks on Coptic churches, schools and buildings in Cairo on August 14.

These mob attacks, which also targeted Catholics and evangelicals, left at least four citizens dead and countless buildings destroyed following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi.

Before releasing their report, Amnesty visited the scenes of the violence to gather evidence from witnesses, government officials and religious leaders.

One resident of Al-Minya told Amnesty that when he called the armed forces' hot lines seeking help, he was told that the security forces were only ordered to protect "vital institutions or interests". Security forces even failed to end the attacks after they had gone on for many days.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: "It is deeply disturbing that the Christian community across Egypt was singled out for revenge attacks."

Sahraoui said that the attacks against Coptic Christians should have been anticipated and prevented following similar violence in July.

He said: "Failure to bring to justice those responsible for sectarian attacks sends the message that Copts and other religious minorities are fair game."

Amnesty says that the Egyptian authorities are failing to address discrimination against Copts and are not taking the necessary steps to protect religious minorities.

Sahraoui added: "The authorities must make it absolutely clear that sectarian attacks will not be tolerated."

According to the report, Egypt's Minister of Defence has announced that churches will be rebuilt by the army.

However, Amnesty pointed out that "the authorities have failed to acknowledge the discrimination faced by Coptic Christians in Egypt for decades".

The report reads: "The authorities must provide adequate reparation, including financial compensation, to the victims, and prioritise the rebuilding of churches. They must also address the inherent discrimination facing Coptic Christians in Egypt."

The Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed Amnesty's latest report, which was released days after he joined a special Anglican-Coptic service of prayer for the region last Saturday.

He said in a statement: "Attacks on any community are deplorable and any state has the responsibility to protect its citizens. The appalling attacks in August on the Christian community in Egypt highlight the need for all citizens to be duly protected."

Yesterday's report from Amnesty International comes exactly two years after Coptic Christian protesters and one Muslim were killed in a crackdown by Egyptian armed forces.

The Archbishop added that "despite the pressure they are under, by the grace of God, Christians in Egypt continue to do all they can to work for the good of the whole of the society of which they are an essential part".