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Morsi promises to protect Christians

12 October 2012


Committed: President Morsi is watched on a large screen as he addresses a packed stadium, in Cairo on Saturday

Committed: President Morsi is watched on a large screen as he addresses a packed stadium, in Cairo on Saturday

PRESIDENT Mohammed Morsi of Egypt has publicly committed himself to providing protection for the minority Christian community in his country.

In a televised speech to the nation last weekend, he referred to the case of several Coptic families who had fled from the northern Sinai town of Rafah to nearby El-Arish, after leaflets appeared that threatened the lives of Christians. The families returned when the governor of Sinai was ordered by the President to guarantee their safety.

"Attacking Christians is an attack against every Egyptian, and an assault on me personally," President Morsi said. "They have the right to protection like any other Egyptian citizen. Security must prevail."

Earlier, the Egyptian leader had visited Sinai in an attempt to reassure Christians there that they would be safe. The Egyptian army is involved in a campaign to dislodge jihadist Islamists from the region. Security around the President was intense, and a plan for him to visit Rafah was cancelled at the last minute.

Addressing Bedouin chiefs and other residents of El-Arish, he said of the threats against the Coptic families in Rafah: "This will not happen again. Your security is our security. What happened is an individual case which represents neither Egypt nor its children, Muslim or Christian. It's a crime for which the perpetrators must be held responsible."

Only hours after President Morsi had flown back to Cairo, however, gunmen in a passing car fired automatic weapons on the house of a Coptic family in Rafah. No one was hurt.

Despite the President's efforts to ease tension between Muslims and Christians, each community is watchful for signs that the other is guilty of causing offence, real or perceived. In one such incident, two Coptic boys, aged nine and ten, in the remote village of Izbat Marco, in Beni Suef province 100 miles south of Cairo, were arrested after a Muslim cleric said that he saw them urinating on pages of the Qur'an.

Copts in the village insisted that the two boys, who are illiterate, could not have known that the book in question was the Qur'an, but Muslims held a demonstration calling for revenge.

A court subsequently ordered the release of the boys, pending further investigations.


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