I’ve been mulling over Ulf Laessing’s Reuters article recounting general despair among Egypt’s Copts that they can ever find themselves at home in their country, and that to save themselves they must leave, since the article’s publication on the 11th of this month. Is there some exaggeration afoot, or are things really that irresolvably bad? (I will note that Mubarak’s regime was hardly especially kind to Christians, either; ongoing issues with religious freedom in Egypt seem to long predate 2011.)
When Egyptian Christian Kerollos Maher watched on television as petrol bombs and rocks rained on Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral he had only one thought – emigration.
“Egypt is no longer my country,” said the 24-year-old construction worker, standing in the courtyard of the country’s largest cathedral where one Copt and one Muslim died in sectarian clashes this week.
“The situation of Christians is worsening from day to day. I’ve given up hope that things will improve,” he said.
Christians, who make up a tenth of Egypt’s 84 million people, have been worrying about the rise of militant Islamists since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
But after days of fighting at the cathedral and a town outside Cairo killing eight – the worst sectarian strife since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was elected in June – many Copts now question whether they have a future in Egypt.
An angry young fringe of a community that has lived in Egypt since the earliest days of Christianity may also be turning to violence.
“The attack on the cathedral was the crossing of a red line,” said Michael Sanouel, a 23-year old technician in a steel plant. Sanouel rushed to the cathedral “to defend it” when he heard about the clashes that lasted more than five hours.
“I have been looking for a while for a job abroad, in Italy or Germany,” he said, standing next to a piece of charred wood from a tree hit by a petrol bomb hurled over the compound wall.
“I have two children but I don’t want them to grow up under a Muslim Brotherhood regime,” said Sanouel, who slept in the cathedral compound like dozens of others after the clashes, ready to defend it if more confrontations erupted.