Shobra, a neighborhood in Cairo known for its mixed Muslim and Christian community. The yellow and pastel green walls are crumbling and adorned simply with a religious icon and a large photograph of his late father. “Before, tensions in society were controlled under the Mubarak regime, but now with new freedom comes fear for your children that things may get worse. “Politically, we thought when the former regime was gone things would improve and stabilize, but now we are going backward.” As he speaks, Mr. Gamil’s disappointment plays across his brown eyes. “Later I thought, ‘This is my country, this is where I grew up.’ It’s not fair,” he says, shaking his head.
wo years after the revolution that deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak, the idealism of the uprising and the unity of the opposition have disappeared. A new, more volatile Egypt has emerged. In the face of rising political Islam, increased violence
and religious prejudice, Egypt’s Christians, roughly 10 percent of the population, feel a heightened sense of insecurity in a country they have called their own for millennia. The country’s faltering economy and subsequent turmoil have affected all Egyptians, but Christians are feeling even more precarious about their prospects. “Copts, after the revolution, had very high hopes that they were coming out of a dictatorship where they longed for lost equality,” says Youssef Sidhom, editor in chief of Watany, a weekly Coptic newspaper. “But after the revolution, everybody is suffering from the absence of state, the lack of security and of course the shameful rise of violence. This affects both Copts and Muslims.” Salafis, extremist Muslims who eschewed politics under Mubarak, have risen to the fore in postrevolutionary Egypt. They have
become increasingly vocal about their vision for Egypt and have ratcheted up their anti-Christian rhetoric. “For Christians, the atmosphere is really threatening on a day-to-day level,” Mr. Sidhom adds. “In political bodies, in their media, in all of their talk shows — they don’t cease revealing their intentions that Egypt should be transformed into an Islamic state, and that they are coming back in order to put Egypt on the right ethical track via Islamic Sharia. They are saying this daily.” With the growing influence of radical Islam, more and more Christians are considering their options. Atef Gamil knows many Christians who have already emigrated. He wants his 21-year-old son, Bishoy, to move to England when the young man finishes his medical degree in three years. But Bishoy Gamil has other ideas. He does not want to leave Egypt.
BELOW, the faithful pack into St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo for a funeral liturgy for slain Christian protestors.
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)