Call for end to discrimination in Egypt

The last few weeks have seen an escalation in violence against Christians in EgyptAP

The head of the Coptic Church in the UK is calling upon Egypt to allow all citizens to live freely according to their beliefs.

The statement by Bishop Angaelos marks the second anniversary of the uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

He urges the Egyptian government to bring an end to violence against Christians and move towards a democracy in which freedom of religion is respected.

Egypt's minority Christian community has been hit by three attacks in recent weeks.

A building in Fayoum was destroyed by a mob after a rumour emerged that it was going to be used as a church.

In Qena, eight Coptic homes and businesses were attacked by Muslim protesters. Buildings and vehicles were torched and the church of Abu Fam was damaged. The attack was triggered by rumours of a Christian man sexually assaulting a six-year-old Muslim girl, later found to be false.

In Beba, a criminal gang occupied a church building and turned it into a drugs den. Police reportedly failed to intervene.

Bishop Angaelos called for the protection of places of worship and full investigations into the latest attacks.

The recent imprisonment of a mother and her seven children for converting to Christianity also prompted calls for the freedom to change religious beliefs.

"As we approach the second anniversary of the uprising in Tahrir Square, it is unfortunate that these incidents are by no means isolated," he said.

"They are merely the latest in a continuous stream of discriminatory decisions facing Egyptians, Christians and Muslims alike, who wish to be treated equally, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.

"Considering the significant sacrifice that has been presented over the past two years, even leading to the loss of life, it is time for Egypt to emerge out of the pattern of discriminatory practice, and take on its new identity of a promised democracy that the January 2011 uprising sought to establish."