Connect to share and comment

Fears of unrest in Egypt in wake of church bombing

Many Christians blame their government before terrorists for recent church bombing.

“Wicked terrorists targeted the nation, Copts and Muslims,” said Mubarak, in a televised appearance on state television in the hours immediately following the Alexandria bombing, according to the Reuters news agency.

Sectarian violence between Muslims and the minority Coptic Christians — which constitute about 10 percent of the country’s nearly 80 million residents — is generally rare.

Tension has turned violent in the past, however, typically over local disputes involving conversion, marriage and the laws regarding the construction of new churches.

Last year on Christmas Day, seven Copts were killed in a drive-by shooting outside a church in Upper Egypt.

Father Samaan Ibrahim, 69, the head priest at a massive, cave-like monastery cut into the base of the Mokattam cliffs near Manshiet Nasr, called the Alexandria bombing the most violent incident he had ever heard of in Egypt.

“Our national identification cards carry our religion on them, which is discrimination. I blame the state — the government talks a lot about unity, but nothing is actually done in practice,” Ibrahim said.

Echoing many in Manshiet Nasr, he believed that tension is only worsening.

Kamille Shenouda runs a small bakery along the main, unpaved road leading into the community of zabaleen. Christmastime for Shenouda usually means a storefront packed with families ordering trays of kahk, a sugar-topped cookie popular as a dessert for the holiday feast.

This year, however, his bakery is empty.

“I think people are scared and confused,” he said. “With the separation of understanding between our two faiths only getting wider, this is going to be a very difficult Christmas.”