Tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians are leaving the country in the wake of the Egyptian revolution and subsequent Islamist takeover of politics, priests and community leaders say.
Coptic Christian churches in the United States say they are having to expand to cope with new arrivals, as priests in cities like Cairo and Alexandria talk of a new climate of fear and uncertainty.
“Most of our people are afraid,” Father Mina Adel, a priest at the Church of Two Saints in Alexandria said. “Not a few are leaving – for America, Canada and Australia. Dozens of families from this church alone are trying to go too.”
“Salafis meet Christian girls in the street and order them to cover their hair,” Father Mina said. “Sometimes they hit them when they refuse.”
President Mohammed Morsi has promised to respect Christians’ rights, and issued a New Year message insisting Egypt was “one homeland for all”. But several Brotherhood leaders and clerics issued thinly veiled threats against them during protests in late 2012, accusing them of being part of a plot to overthrow the government.
The biggest change in attitudes has come since the passing of a new constitution giving Sharia law more prominence.
“With the new constitution, the new laws that are expected, and the majority in parliament I don’t believe we can be treated on an equal basis,” said a congregation leader in Cairo’s Church of St Mary and St John the Baptist.