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Friday, November 13, 2009

The first Christian satellite television channel in Egypt began broadcasting

Aghapy Television was established by the Coptic Christian church, the main church in Egypt.

Copts make up an estimated 10% of the Egyptian population and they complain of discrimination.

Three people died in Alexandria in October after Muslim demonstrators attacked a church which had put on a play seen as offensive to Islam.

Aghapy TV is the first ever television channel in Egypt to broadcast programmes with a purely Christian outlook.

The Coptic channel will carry church services, family programmes and documentaries about ancient monasteries.

But some here are worried that the presence of a Coptic channel may exacerbate the tensions between Muslims and Christians which periodically flare up into violence, says the BBC’s Heba Saleh in Cairo.


Restrictions


The bishop in charge of Aghapy TV says the channel will not carry anything that could upset Muslims.

The aim, he says, is to provide a link with the church to all those Copts who may not have access to a place of worship or who live abroad, but in the current volatile atmosphere many will be watching closely to see if the new channel gives offence in any way.

Last month three people were killed when Muslims tried to storm a church in Alexandria because a play had been performed there two years earlier which was deemed offensive to Islam.

Egyptian Christians complain of discrimination in employment and of restrictions on the construction of churches.

The violence in Alexandria prompted an unusually frank debate in the press, with many commentators accusing the government of ignoring the festering problems between the two communities.

According to a new report on religious freedom in Egypt says Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the 80 million population (CIA factbook), face major rights violations and are being increasingly persecuted. 

The quarterly 36-page report (see Arabic version) by independent rights organization the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the government denies Copts the right to build churches or pray at home.

It said the homes of some Copts, particularly in southern Egypt, were demolished or closed because the government suspected them of being clandestine churches, and that physical attacks against Copts had continued over the past three months, with at least three losing their lives.

According to EIPR, there are an average of four attacks against Copts every month; there have been 144 attacks nationwide over the past three years.

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