Egypt (MNN) — Deadly
clashes over the weekend between Egypt's Christians and Muslims highlighted
rising inter-faith tensions.
Security had to be
tightened around churches in a Cairo slum at the beginning of the week
following the riots over rumors of a Christian
who converted to Islam. The reports
turned out to be false, says Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs
Canada. "The last reports I saw: 12 were dead, and churches were burnt down.
Really, it was started by a group called Salafist."
Musselman explains that "they're an ultra Islamist
group, and they're trying to make inroads into Egypt, into the political
system." They were held in a firm grip
by ousted president Hosni Mubarak's security forces.
The coordination of the rebellion grew over whether or not this was the first play
by the Muslim Brotherhood to make a grab for power. Musselman says the two groups don't seem to
share the same ideals. "You've got those
within the Muslim Brotherhood that are even denouncing this situation. The Salafists are a group that are a small
minority within even the more radical Islam–or those that want to see Sharia
law [established] and will use violence to do that."
Leaders say that a
trial in military court faces 190 people detained in connection with the
violence. Even while that might be good news, the Christians in Egypt still feel like
easy prey. "The Coptics are feeling like ‘the government's not protecting us.'"
The incident poses a challenge for Egypt's new military
rulers in the wake of the Mubarak ouster. "It even seems that the interim government's having a problem trying to
figure out what to do, and they've been overwhelmed." Musselman adds that justice will be difficult
for the new government to establish, which causes fear. "It's
causing a lot of instability [in a region] that's
already pretty unstable. But it does give the opportunity for Christian
leaders reaching out to their Muslim countrymen.
Although Christians make up just 10-percent of the 80
million people who live in Egypt, they still have a voice that can be heard. Musselman
urges prayer because "the church that is under attack, if it's not strong, can fall. On the other hand, for those that are strong in Christ, it will cause
them to be strengthened and will also help them to reach out to others with
the Gospel and to proclaim the message of peace."