As a result, the Coptic Orthodox community is pressing the Egyptian government to release the arrested Christian men and women and give Copts equal rights and treatment across Egypt.
The Copts’ argument is not without merit. The U.S. State Department’s annual religious freedom report stated that although Egypt’s Constitution recognizes non-Muslim religions, Christians still “face personal and collective discrimination, especially in government employment and their ability to build, renovate, and repair places of worship.”
In order to escape this discrimination, many have emigrated to the U.S. Since 1976, the Coptic community has gone from having 14 churches and 40,000 members to 100 churches and 300,000 in 2000, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.
As turmoil continues in Egypt, Michele Dunne, a scholar for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department official specializing in Egypt, said the government is likely to continue its approach: deny the problems and downplay any sectarian violence as isolated incidents.
“There’s not any real effort to prevent or punish discrimination. The government is not proactive. They don’t want to address these issues. There’s a lot of denial about it,” Dunne said.
To address these issues, hundreds of Copts participated in a peace rally at the United Nations on Tuesday.
Fr. Anthony Hanna flew all the way from San Francisco, Calif. to join.