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During last month’s Coptic Christmas mass, Egyptian Muslims offered their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to protect the threatened Christian community . The action caused many to wonder if it was a sign of improving relations between the two groups.

Unfortunately, Cornelis Hulsman, reporting from Cairo for Christianity Today , thinks there’s too much else going on to put those tensions aside in the long term :

Last August, another woman, Kamelia Shehata, also married to a priest, allegedly wanted to convert to Islam to obtain a divorce. She too disappeared. Following the disappearance,local media highlighted a claim of Orthodox Bishop Bishoy, made in an interview, that Muslims are “guests” in Egypt. (There is a popular Christian belief that only Christians belong in Egypt.)

But Egyptian government officials have repeatedly expressed in private their frustrations that the Orthodox Church has become “a state within a state” that flouts the law.

The construction of mosques and churches is another persistent sore spot. In Nag Hammadi, Father Isidorus explains that most of his monastery was built up over the past 30 years by constructing new buildings around 19th-century-era buildings. Many Christians do this to get around highly restrictive state limits on stand-alone new buildings.

But near the entrance of the monastery stands a mosque with a minaret that is taller than the tower of the church. In el-Tur, Sinai, a mosque has been built to rival in size the new church, which had been larger than the area’s existing mosques. In Aswan, a cathedral dominates the skyline of the city, where only a few hundred Christians remain. This kind of rivalry among Egypt’s Christians and Muslims causes both the state and the church to look weak


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