Coptic Christians in Egypt are losing faith that the country’s new military-backed government can offer fair treatment after years of religious bias.
Three Christians received long prison sentences Sunday for the death of a Muslim in sectarian clashes, but no one has been prosecuted in the deaths of at least five Coptics in the same street battle.
An Egyptian court official said one Christian was sentence to life, and two others to 15 years for killing a Muslim resident of Khosoos, north of Cairo. Nine Muslims were sentenced to up to five years for vandalizing Christian properties, but no one has been tried for at least five Christian deaths.
Beshoy Tamry, a Coptic Christian activist with the Maspero Youth Union, said many Christians had hoped for better treatment after the July ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. “But today proved that nothing changed,” Tamry told The New York Times.
“The regime has not changed its system of using the judiciary against Christians,” he said.
The April clashes in Khosoos marked some of Egypt’s worst sectarian violence this year, leaving nine people dead and many injured. The fighting started after Muslim children spray-painted a swastika on the wall of an Islamic institute, the Times reported, citing local sources.
Some area Muslims incorrectly assumed their Christian neighbors were to blame and attacked them.
Two days after the Khosoos clashes, angry Christians leaving a funeral at the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo came face to face with a crowd of local Muslims. The Christians were forced back onto the cathedral grounds, and an assault began, with large crowds on both sides hurling rocks and firebombs for several hours. Some in the mob fired birdshot and handguns before police arrived and sprayed tear gas to disperse the crowd.
There was more sectarian violence after Morsi was removed from power on July 3. Many Islamists blamed Christians for the military takeover and attacked churches across Egypt.
At least 25 churches were torched and looted in August. Christian schools, businesses, and homes across the country were also targeted. Witnesses said the assailants were Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of Christianity's earliest branches. It was born in Egypt, and almost all Egyptian Christians throughout the centuries have belonged to it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.