Across Europe, political leaders have strongly condemned the fatal bombing of a Church in Egypt, as Coptic Christians in Germany said they have also been threatened by radical Islamists.
The deadly attack by a suicide bomber against a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day has prompted widespread condemnation across the political spectrum in Europe.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he condemned “without reservation this barbaric act.”
In a letter to Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, Sarkozy wrote that “nobody should be worried or afraid for their life in exercising their fundamental right to freely practice their faith.”
Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini urged his European Union counterparts to respond forcefully to the attack and to discrimination of Christians throughout the world.
“It tragically confirms that religious intolerance, above all against Christians, has taken on an intensity and dimension that is very serious and alarming, and absolutely unacceptable,” Frattini said.
“The moment for a powerful and clear political response by all governments that cherish human rights, of which religious freedom is a basic part, has come.”
Time to ‘combat the demons of intolerance’
The parliamentary human rights spokesman of Germany’s Green party, Volker Beck, said “the condemnation of such attacks is not enough. Egypt and other states must effectively combat the demons of religious intolerance.”
Contemplating measures that could be taken, Stefan Mueller, the parliamentary leader of Germany’s Christian Social Union, said it was time to tie development aid to the question of whether or not Christians are persecuted by the state or groups in a particular country.
“There can be no financial aid to countries in which Christians cannot practice their faith unhindered,” Mueller said.
The CSU parliamentarian also said he expected Muslims in Germany “to more clearly formulate their disgust, as has been done around the world.”
The deputy party leader of Germany’s governing Christian Democrats, Annette Schavan, called on Islamic leaders around the world to take a clear stand against religious violence.
“Muslim authorities in Cairo and elsewhere must clearly distance themselves from all forms of violence in the name of religion,” she said. “There can be no peace among peoples without peace between their religions,” Schavan emphasized.
Copts in Germany get threats
Germany’s Coptic Christian community has said that it had also received threats from radical Muslims.
“The Internet is full of threats of this kind against us. The police have alerted us several times against attacks by radical Muslims,” Damian told the newspaper. The bishop said he had written to the German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to ask for protection.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, angry Christians gathered inside the gates of Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral and heckled officials who came to pay their condolences to Church leaders and the families of the 21 people killed on Saturday.
Demonstrators chased the state minister for economic development, Osman Mohammed Osman, to his car and pelted him with rocks, while others clashed with police standing outside the gates.
Egyptian state media has reported that the authorities are currently holding seven people for questioning in connection with the suicide attack and tightened security around churches across the country.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner