(ADDS MILITARY PROPOSAL FOR NEW PRESIDENT, RESIGNATION DEPUTY PM)
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egypt’s minority Christians faced new threats Monday, January 27, after scores of people were killed in weekend clashes between security forces and protesters on the third anniversary of the country’s 2011 uprising.
Most people were killed Saturday, January 25, the official date of the popular revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Witnesses said deadly fighting erupted between police and supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi and some non-Islamist protesters in several parts of the country.
Several officials said 49 people were killed, but Egypt’s news website Ahram Online quoted Egypt’s forensic authorities as saying 64 people had died. The demonstrations took place a day after four bombs targeting police killed six people around Cairo, the capital. Another 15 people were killed in clashes around the country Friday, January 27, reports said.
The latest clashes were expected to raise tensions between Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party supporters and Christians, who have been accused by Islamists of supporting the current government.
Christians, mainly known as Copts in Egypt, have expressed concerned about a lack of security and rising Islamic extremism. Dozens of Christians have been abducted by suspected Islamic militants across the country in recent months. Among the latest victims is Coptic pharmacist Emil Ayad Mikhael, 50, Christians said.
He was reportedly kidnapped on his way home from his pharmacy located in the Badari district of the Assiut area. Elsewhere, Christians in Assiut have also said they fear being killed for not being able to pay a controversial Islamic tax, or jizya.
Christian residents in Al-Shamiya village in Assiut said they were told to pay some 20 thousand pounds ($2,900), a huge amount in Egypt.
Since this month, suspected Islamic militants were seen roaming the village, where in September two Copts were killed for refusing to pay the tax, Christians said.
These are no isolated incidents as the three succeeding years since the uprising have been marred by the destruction of churches and other anti-Christian attacks, investigators say. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a major advocacy group, said the last three years were overshadowed by “repeated cycles of ineffective government, public protest, and institutional violence. ”
Though Egyptians approved a new constitution in a vote on January 14-15, tensions remain, CSW said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
“While the new constitution upholds human rights, leans away from a restrictive interpretation of ‘Sharia'”, or Islamic law, “and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, gender, or any other criteria, it retains military trials for civilians,” CSW explained.
The document also “does not subject the military to civilian oversight and religious freedom provisions only apply to Islam, Christianity and Judaism,” the group added.
That statement came while Egypt’s military said it wants army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for President, and Deputy Prime Minister, Ziad Bahaa el-Din, resigned. Interim President Adly Mansour, announced that presidential elections will be held sooner than planned and before the country elects a new parliament.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that his organization hopes the new constitution will lead to “a timely implementation of provisions guaranteeing the rights and privileges of all Egyptians and upholding equality of citizenship,” and less violence in the troubled nation.
Christians comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s over 85 million people, according to several estimates.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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