Protests broke out in Asyut on 23rd February after the funeral of a Coptic Priest, stabbed in his home on Monday 21st February, with around 3,000 Copts attacking shops and cars owned by Muslims, according to the UN.
Gamaa Islamiyah, a Salafist group that renounced violence years ago, condemned the murder and called for restraint.
On Wednesday 23rd February, 2,000 Copts protested in Cairo against reports that an army unit had destroyed newly built fences around a monastery in the Nitrian Desert earlier in the day.
According to the Assyrian International News Agency, further protests took place on Monday February28th when 10,000 people protested against the plans of the Governor of Minya Ahmed, Dia-el-Din, to demolish a care centre.
Tensions between the religious communities in Egypt had eased before the ousting of President Mubarak, owing to shock at a New Year’s Eve bomb attack on Two Saints Church which killed 25 Copts and injured 100 people. Following the attack, Muslims attended a a Coptic Christmas service to show solidarity in the face of violence.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has recently concluded a report on sectarian violence in Egypt prior to the reform protests saying:
“From January 2008 to January 2010, there have been at least 53 incidents of sectarian violence or tension—about two incidents a month—that have taken place in 17 of Egypt’s 29 governorates. In some governorates, such as Sharqiya, only one incident has taken place, but in others, such as Minya, there have been 21 incidents.
“Due to the nature Egypt’s demographic composition — the conversion of most of the population to Islam with the persistence of a significant Christian minority —sectarian violence always takes place between Muslims and Christians, although in the period under review there was one case of sectarian violence by Muslims against Egyptian Baha’is.”
The report notes that sectarianism in Egypt is notable for being widespread, regular and pervasive throughout society. The EIPR recommends that the new government approaches the issue of sectarianism within a comprehensive framework of respect for basic human rights and rule of law. The body also calls for the support of religious leaders in tackling religiously motivated violence in Egypt.