Coptic Christians
Threatened by Egypt's Policies
Christians Persecuted by Both Police
and Islamic Groups
 Fredom House Press Release:

March 31, 1999  
A new human rights report finds that Egypt's ancient Coptic 
Christians are persecuted by radical Islamic groups and at times by 
local police and other security officials and they are discriminated 
against and have their freedom to worship hampered by the 
Egyptian Government.

The result is that while Coptic Christians are generally able to 
practice their faith, increasingly they do so in a climate of fear and 
uncertainty.

The 125-page report, "Egypt's Endangered Christians," was 
released by Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom on 
April 1. It is based on two 1998 fact-finding trips to Egypt and 
current ongoing research. The report concludes that:

* The Egyptian government discriminates against Christians and 
hampers their freedom of worship, and its agencies sporadically 
persecute Muslim converts to Christianity. In particular it:

      - Enforces onerous restrictions on building or repairing 
	churches.
      - Applies religiously discriminatory laws and practices 
	concerning family law, conversions, education, and clergy 
	salaries.
      - Restricts Copts from senior government, military, and 
	educational positions.
      - Subsidizes media which are used to attack Copts.

* In several instances local police have been complicit in the 
coercive conversion of Coptic girls. The police at the local level 
frequently harass and sometimes even persecute Christians, 
particularly converts, because either the police sympathize with or 
fear Islamic radicals, or regard Christians as disturbing the social 
order.

 * Islamic terrorists attack security forces, tourists, and the 
majority moderate Muslims as well as Copts, but the Copts are 
their major Egyptian civilian target. This is exacerbated by terrorist 
imposition of an extortionate jizya "tax" on thousands of Copts, 
primarily in Upper Egypt.

Egypt's 6 to 10 million Copts, dating back two thousand years, are 
by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East. The 
Report is available for $8.00 from Center for Religious Freedom.

Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom defends freedom 
of religion for all throughout the world on a non-sectarian basis. It 
seeks to end religious repression by documenting and publicizing 
restrictions on religious and other human rights and by mobilizing 
public support in defense of those who are imprisoned, tortured, 
exiled, or otherwise persecuted for religious reasons. Its director is 
Nina Shea.

 For more information, contact Joseph Assad at (202) 296-5101
 

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