Factbox: Attacks on Christians in Egypt

Mon Oct 10, 2011 1:55pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Egyptian Christians mourned their dead and berated the army on Monday after at least 25 people were killed when troops crushed a protest about an attack on a church in the worst violence since the uprising topped former President Hosni Mubarak.

Tensions between Christians and Muslims have increased since the uprising this year. The latest violence has also come before parliamentary elections on November 28, the first such vote since the military took over.

Here are some details about Christians in Egypt and some major attacks:

* WHAT IS THE COPTIC CHURCH?

-- Before the Arab conquest in the 7th century, Christianity was widespread in Egypt and the people identified themselves and their language in Greek as Aigyptios, which was westernized as Copt. When Egyptian Muslims later stopped using that term, it became the distinctive name of the native Egyptian Christian minority.

-- Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population. They are divided into the majority Coptic Orthodox Church and a Coptic Catholic Church in union with the Vatican which has about 250,000 members. There are also small groups of other Christians affiliated to churches abroad.

-- Arabic and Coptic are used in Coptic services.

-- The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church is Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria. The Catholic Coptic leader is Patriarch Antonios Naguib of Alexandria.

ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS:

* The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights issued a report in April 2010 saying the number of cases of sectarian violence rose between 2008 and 2009 and called for the prosecution of offenders to prevent a further escalation.

* On January 1, 2011 a suspected suicide bomber hit a church in Alexandria as Christians celebrated the new year, killing 23 people.

-- The blast prompted protests by Christians that the state had not done enough to protect them from Muslim militants.

* Thousands of Christians protested last March in front of the state television building after the torching of a church.

-- Thirteen people were killed and 140 wounded in sectarian violence on March 8, ignited by the tensions built up since the arson attack on the church.

-- The attack, on March 5 in Helwan, on the outskirts of Cairo, and came as a row started over a romance between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

* On May 7, 12 people were killed and 52 wounded in sectarian clashes and in the burning of St Mary's Church in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba, after rumours that Christians were holding a woman who had converted to Islam.

-- A week later Egypt's Pope Shenouda, head of the Orthodox Coptic church, called on Christians to abandon a demonstration against attacks on their community after a clash the previous night left 78 wounded.

* Protesters wanted the government to fire the governor of Aswan Province, Mostafa al-Sayed, after the partial demolition of a church there on October 7.

-- Egyptian media said Muslims were accused of attacking the church after talk spread in the town that the building did not have legal authorization.

-- Christians clashed with military police late on Sunday after blaming Muslim radicals for demolishing the church, leaving at least 25 people dead in Cairo and 213 wounded.

Sources: Reuters/www.copticchurch.net/www.britannica.com (Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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