Anti-Christian discrimination and religiously motivated attacks in Egypt worrisome, US government report says

There has been a worrisome level of anti-Christian discrimination and religiously motivated attacks in Egypt within the past year, concluded a United States Department of State report on religious freedom released Wednesday.

With a population of 104.1 million, 90% of Egypt’s population is Muslim while just 10% identifies as Christian.

While Egypt’s constitution claims that freedom of religion is an absolute right protected by law, the constitution also states, “Islam is the religion of the state…and the principles of Islamic sharia are the main sources of legislation.”

The Abrahamic religions are the only religions allowed to practice in Egypt as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered to be “heavenly religions.” Other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are prohibited from practice or from building houses of worship.

Despite having legal protection, the Christian minority in Egypt is not without adversity and is still subject to social discrimination on many occasions.

The report from the U.S. Department of State documents numerous religiously motivated acts of aggression against the Christian community in Egypt, such as throwing Molotov cocktails at Churches or attacking the homes of Christians.

While the government has generally held civilians accountable for violence against Christians, tensions continue between the two religious groups.

There have also been numerous reports of discriminatory hiring practices or the use of discriminatory language against Christians.

“U.S. government officials at multiple levels… regularly raised religious freedom concerns. The Ambassador and other embassy representatives discussed attacks on Christians, church legalization and construction, interfaith dialogue, and countering extremist thought,” said Wednesday’s report from the U.S. Department of State.

There is reason to be optimistic that religious freedom in Egypt is on a path to improvement. According to the report, “Eshhad, a website that records sectarian attacks, documented a 29 percent reduction of intercommunal violence in recent years.”

However, even as religiously motivated violence starts to become sparser, the underlying tensions between religious groups do not dissipate overnight. It is important that going forward, freedom of belief and expression be respected in order to ensure that the minority is not oppressed by the ideological majority.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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