A series of attacks against Christians in Egypt has prompted the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya to call on police to enforce the law protecting citizens from sectarian violence.
Archbishop Anba Makarios said the attacks are continuing at an average of one every 10 days.
On 5 July, an Orthodox Christian nun from Mar Girgis Monastery in Old Cairo was killed after reportedly being hit by a stray bullet on the Cairo-Alexandria Highway. Following the incident a man and his son were also killed in what was described as a "revenge attack".
Recent weeks have also seen the assault on homes of Christian families in the village of Karm el Loofy, the burning of a kindergarten run by Christians in Minya, and the murder on 30 June of Rafael Moussa, a Coptic Orthodox priest of the church of St. George, carried out in Al Arish, a coastal city in North Sinai that is only a few miles away from Gaza. So-called Islamic State (IS) took responsibility for the murder, describing Moussa as a "disbelieving combatant."
Ever-present tensions between Christians and Muslims have intensified after the Arab Spring of 2011.
The worst single incident came with the February 2015 IS beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christian migrant workers, earlier abducted in Libya.
But again in recent months there has been a significant increase in sectarian violence, causing concern among Egypt's estimated population of nine million Christians. Mostly Orthodox Copts, they account for about 10 per cent of Egypt's population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.
"Copts in Egypt face persecution and discrimination," software engineer and blogger Mina Fayek told Al-Monitor over the phone from Amsterdam. "The government does very little to protect Christians."
In May a 70-year-old Christian woman – alleged to be the mother of a man who was romantically involved with a Muslim woman – was stripped naked by a mob of 300 Muslims and paraded through the streets of her village in Minya. The incident led to outrage on social media and the trending hashtag #EgyptStrippedNaked.
Christians face strong resistance when wanting to build churches. On 17 June, a number of homes belonging to Christians in the village of Al Bayda near Alexandria were ransacked, burned and looted by angry mobs after it emerged that a house under construction was being turned into a church.