Egyptian police shot and killed one Christian and wounded dozens of others Wednesday morning in a new escalation of violence with Coptics trying to build a church near the pyramids. A senior police officer and 12 soldiers also were wounded.
Police fired tear gas and arrested more than two dozen protesters after they hurled stones and firebombs in a demonstration of 200 Christians against the government’s ban on the Coptics’ attempt to complete the building of a church.
Egyptian authorities have maintained that the church is being built without a permit, but the Coptics, a minority of 10 percent in the country, have complained of discrimination in favor of Muslims.
The building now serves as a community center, and Egyptian police Wednesday morning arrested construction workers on their way to the site, where work has began.
Non-Muslims need special presidential approval to build religious edifices, while getting a permit for Muslims is relatively easy.
Tensions between Muslims and Christians are likely to rise next month, when a court hearing will be heard in the case of three Muslims suspected of killing six Coptic Christians and a Muslim earlier this year.
Religious discrimination in Egypt was highlighted this month by the U.S. State Department in its annual report on religious freedom. It included Egypt in a list of 27 nations where “violations of religious freedom have been noteworthy.”
Egypt responded by saying that no other country should act as a monitor over other nations. “Each country can understand its own problems and challenges and work on them efficiently,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.