29 June 2011, 13:16

Hard times for Coptic Christians in Egypt

Hard times for Coptic Christians in Egypt
Download audio file

We are talking about a controversial topic right now. One that is not very well-known, especially with the Arab Spring that has occurred these past several months in the Middle East. On the line with us from Egypt is Waukee Yakub , a human rights activist in Egypt.

We are talking about a controversial topic right now. One that is not very well-known, especially with the Arab Spring that has occurred these past several months in the Middle East. On the line with us from Egypt is Waukee Yakub, a human rights activist in Egypt.

Give us an idea of what is happening between the Coptic Christians, where you live, and the Salafi Muslims?

After the revolution of January 25th Salafis came to power. And the only side with which they conflict a lot with is the Coptic Orthodox Christians. They know we are peaceful people and we don’t hurt anyone and they started attacking churches, stop attacking even other Muslim people – the Sufi Muslims that they don’t like. What’s happening now is that it seems like the Military Council that rules the country right now is totally involved with them and constantly agrees them. We have videos and lots of pictures that prove that they do nothing when it comes to attacks on Christians. But when it comes to attacks on any government buildings or government interests they start acting very fast, like when they did with the Israeli Embassy. When people started attacking the Israeli Embassy they reacted very fast. So, they have the power to do so.

You are human rights activist. Tell us what you witnessed in this clash between the Muslims and the Coptic Christians.

I wouldn’t like to generalize people. I actually have a nice vision of Muslim people who live with us. But the problem is with Salafi fanatics, who have al-Qaeda-styled thinking. It’s exactly al-Qaeda thinking: we are rejecting others, we want to kill the Christians, we want to make the Christians leave the country. I have witnessed an incident in Imbaba, when a house was burning, and furniture was thrown out of the windows, while water quenching vehicles and the police stood there doing nothing. It was happening right in front of them. I’ve seen my own church set on fire and burning like hell, and nothing was done. No one was arrested, though we have videos that show faces of the people, who are very well-known.

But why was the church burnt? What was the reason for it?

There was no reason. Same as in Imbaba.

Is it religious hatred?

Exactly. It’s hatred towards you. It’s a cause of terror.  They are trying to terrorize you and kill you. You have no other choice: either you leave the country or you become a Muslim like them, although you pay what they call jizya.

So, basically, this group of Muslims is very-very conservative, correct?

They are not conservative, but fanatical, radical.

And they believe that if you are not like them you should leave?

Exactly.

How long has this been going on?

This has been going on since January 25th, since the revolution, when Mubarak actually stepped down. Before that, they couldn’t do that very openly, like they are doing now. But the problem is that we don’t see any action from the police or the Military Council. I mean those guys can be put under control immediately. But no one is stopping them.

But you don’t see the police or the military protecting you. Is that what you are saying?

Absolutely, they are not protecting us.

Why do you think they are not protecting you?

It’s a kind of a deal between the government and those fanatics: we are going to have the presidency and most of MPs and will let you do whatever you want with the Christians. The Christians always pay the price in any deal between fanatics and the government. It always seems we have to pay the price. Whenever there are parliamential elections, we always pay a high price by our lives, our churches, our women.

Because you are a Christian, you are being persecuted. Is that what you are saying?

That’s absolutely correct. Because we are Christians they are persecuting us. They ignore people that kill Christians. They don’t arrest people burning churches or killing Christians. They take no serious action and fanatics can do what they want.

What relief do you have? Is there anyone on your side there?

Well, we have some Muslim liberals on our side. But that’s it. That’s all we can have. Even some fanatic media are spreading lies.

You saw your church burnt, correct?

Yes.

 What do the authorities do about that?

Nothing.  No one has been arrested so far. No one. Although we have videos and pictures showing their faces, and those are very well-known. No one was arrested, despite all the people they killed in the church and in Imbaba as well. A man was shot dead defending his church.  And no one was arrested.

Coptic Christians are about 10% of Egypt’s population, as I understand.

There are more than 10%.  10% are in Libya only.

Where are they located?

They are located all over the country. We are all mixed up here. You cannot tell the difference between Muslims and Christians. Muslim people are very nice sometimes. Most of them.

But you have problems with the Salafis?

We have problems with the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, we have a problem with them. They reject the others. They speak about others with hatred.

What’s the solution, you think?

The solution is that we are waiting for a miracle and defending ourselves. We have no other solution. We are not going to leave the country. We are not going to leave the country like Iraqi Christians. We are not going to accept that. Our country, as it is, is a good country. We are not going to leave our country.

  •  
    and share via