Coptic bishop claims Egyptian authorities are behind Christian persecution

Bishop Agathon said state security forces were complicit in attacks on Christians.

An Egyptian Coptic bishop has said that local authorities are behind the persecution and harrassment of Christiansin his diocese of Minya, the home province of the 21 Christians murdered by Islamic State in Libya.

In an interview for Arabic satellite TV station AlKarma TV by Dr Mona Roman, reported by Coptic Solidarity, Bishop Agathon instanced a meeting between Copts and government officials about the possibility of building a church, during which one of the officials contacted the Muslim leaders of the village instructing them to send people to protest against the plans.

He also said that state security forces were complicit in attacks on Christians. There are currently 21 Christian boys and girls from Minya alone who have been abducted, the youngest of whom had just started elementary school. Bishop Agathon said that whenever these attacks occur, Copts prepare documents, including photos and other verification, pointing to the culprits. These then are placed into the hands of top officials to ensure they are not "lost" or "misplaced" by underlings. The bishop said he had put documentation into the hands of the Director of Intelligence himself. "Absolutely nothing was done," he said.

He also referred to the difficulties Christians faced in repairing or improving churches with toilet facilities. Attempts to renovate a dilapidated church in Gala' led to rioting last month.

Bishop Agathon said: "We as Copts are human beings. And envy takes us when we see our Muslim brothers build mosques where they will, how they will, at any place and at any time. And the state helps them! But as for us, we cannot build anything and that which is already open is being closed... We, the Copts, are citizens with rights; and we see Muslims get whatever they want, while we are always prevented."

Bishop Agathon spoke of the feelings of despondency experienced by Egypt's Christians and the sense that no matter which official they talk to, "nothing will change". If anything, the plight of Egypt's Christians has gone "from bad to worse," the bishop said. "We hear beautiful words but no solution," he added.