Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dispatch from Cairo: The frighteningly uncertain future of Christians in Egypt

(The Week) Coptic Easter has come and gone. For arcane reasons, Copts, the Christian sect indigenous to Egypt, celebrate the holiday on a different date than western Christians, and last Sunday they did so in the typical Egyptian fashion. Coptic youth set off fusillades of fireworks around churches and Coptic and Muslim families shopped and ate late into the night.

Despite the revelry, this is a particularly uncertain time for Copts and other religious minorities living in Egypt.

The country has recently seen numerous deadly sectarian clashes between Copts and Muslims, including a particularly galling incident in April in which police and Muslim youth attempted to storm the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo with guns and tear gas, eventually killing at least two Copts.

Amidst this growing violence, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which unofficially controls the ruling Freedom and Justice Party, issued a religious edict banning Muslims from wishing their Egyptian neighbors a happy Easter.

The Brotherhood leader who issued this edict, Fatwa Abdel Rahman al-Barr, said that saying happy Easter "comes at the expense" of Islam and instead suggested offering generic greetings equivalent to saying "have a good year."