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Hostility Toward Religious People Increasing, Says Report

People look at damage inside a church in Tanta, Egypt, after a suicide bombing, April 9, 2017. Bombs exploded at two Coptic churches in the northern Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing 45 people and wounding dozens more in assaults claimed by the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Hostility Toward Religious People Increasing, Says Report
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Christians in Egypt are asking the government for better security after two recent bombings killed dozens at two churches.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the bombings, which killed 45 people on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a holy day for Christians to celebrate Christ’s arrival at the city of Jerusalem, a week before Easter.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered a three-month state of emergency in response to the bombings. It gives his government sweeping powers to deal with what he calls enemies of the state.

On Wednesday, Egyptian officials named Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah as the suspected suicide bomber in the attack. The government said he had connections to people who carried out earlier terrorist attacks in Egypt.

Bishop Macarius is head of the Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian city of Minya. Macarius said the state of emergency will not provide enough protection.

“Security solutions never succeeded alone,” he said. “No state in the world should be a police state, either here or elsewhere. Emergency all the time makes people nervous.”

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of the 92-million people in mostly Muslim Egypt. It is the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

People gather outside a church in Tanta, Egypt, after a Palm Sunday bombing.
People gather outside a church in Tanta, Egypt, after a Palm Sunday bombing.

Religious hostility increasing

A new report by the Pew Research Center says that “hostility” toward people based on their religious beliefs are increasing.

Pew said that the percentage of countries with high levels of religious hostility increased from 23 percent in 2014 to 27 percent in 2015. It is based on the latest information collected by Pew.

So have government restrictions on religion.

Pew said the percentage of countries with “very high levels” of restrictions on religion increased from 24 percent in 2014 to 25 percent in 2015.

Pew said that Russia, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria had the highest level of religious restrictions.

Pew noted that the U.S. State Department reported in 2015 -- that the Egyptian government “failed to protect Christian targeted by kidnappings and extortion.” That was well before the Palm Sunday bombings, Pew said.

Other religions also under attack

But Christians are not the only religious people under attack. Pew said that Boko Haram militants in Nigeria reportedly killed thousands of people. Some resulted from “indiscriminate” acts of violence, but other attacks targeted Christians and Muslims seen as opposed to Boko Haram.

In Europe, 33 of 45 countries reported hostile acts against Jews in 2015, Pew said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addressed Coptic Christians attending services recently at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

“If you see the hope and the resilience of the Coptic people that are here with us now in New York after all they’ve been through — their faith won’t let them down,” Dolan said.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it stands with Christians in Egypt and Christians worldwide.

“The fact that (the) terrorist attacks took place during Palm Sunday and targeted Coptic Christians as they were conducting their service inside the churches, testified to the inhuman barbarity of the terrorists,” said the ADL, a Jewish human rights group.

Macarius said Sunday’s celebration of Easter will include the usual prayers. But because of the recent bombings, it will not include Easter’s usual celebrations and visits from famous people.

But the first scheduled visit to Egypt by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, is still scheduled for April 28-29.

I'm Jill Robbins.

And I'm Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English based on reports by Reuters, Pew Research Center and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

response - n. something that is said or written as a reply to something

sweeping - adj. wide in range or amount

solution - n. a way of getting something done

pyramid - n. a very large structure built especially in ancient Egypt that has a square base and four triangular sides which form a point at the top

extortion - n. the crime of getting money from someone by the use of force or threats

resilience - n. the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

faith - n. a belief in something, such as religion

testify - v. to talk about or say in an honest and confident way