The Middle East has long been hostile to Christians and other religious minorities. Among those at risk are Egypt’s Copts.
During the reign of dictator Hosni Mubarak, the U.S. State Department called the status of Egyptian religious liberty “poor” and noted that Christians and Baha’is faced “personal and collective discrimination.” Attacks on Copts were common, and perpetrators rarely were prosecuted.
Mubarak’s overthrow led Copts to hope for a freer and safer Egypt. But under Mubarak’s successor, President Mohamed Morsi, violence against Copts increased. Morsi was not the only culprit. In one infamous case, the military–then headed by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi–shot down more than a score of Coptic protesters.
Two years ago, al-Sisi overthrew Morsi and eventually became president. Alas, the military used extreme brutality—killing hundreds of demonstrators on the streets of Cairo—to maintain control.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II publicly supported the coup. But the church remained as vulnerable as it was visible, and was targeted by angry Islamists. Dozens of churches were destroyed.