Egyptian Education and the attacks on Coptic Christians

“I fear the worst. You know already that they don’t teach Coptic history in schools. It will take time, but I see the direction we are moving in.”

These are the words of Father Sarabamon – Pastor of Imbaba’s Virgin Mary Church.  His thoughts were captured in Yasmine El Rashidi’s article “Egypt: The Victorious Islamist” which provides insights into the current plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt. 

In post-revolutionary Egypt, Coptic Christians have been increasingly attacked in aseries of bloody clashes. In March, armed thugs bulldozed a church allegedly over an illicit relationship between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman. This led to riots and clashes that left thirteen people dead and 140 wounded. No arrests were made and no one was charged.

Egypt’s Christian minority community accounts for some 10 percent of the country’s 82 million people and they fear further incidents of violence and persecution.

A new report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), suggests that the attacks against Egyptian Coptic Christians are largely fuelled by the Egyptian school curricula, which is laden with anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sentiment. IMPACT-SE is calling for Egypt to reform its curricula in order to comply with UNESCO standards.

Yohanan Manor, chairman and co-founder of IMPACT-SE stated:

“Egypt has to conduct fundamental reforms in its curricula, which present a national identity based solely on the Islamic religion”

Manor also stated:

“Egypt’s schools present Islam as the ‘only true faith,’ and believers in other religions – including Coptic Christians – as infidels,”

A year before the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s government announced plans for comprehensive reforms to “purge school curricula of erroneous views and material that incites extreme violence.”

The government’s first step was to remove references to “jihad in God’s name.” However, the report by IMPACT-SE found the changes have fallen far short of the comprehensive reform Egypt had pledged.

The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected any talk of education reform, while several news outlets took positions in favor.

IMPACT-SE is an independent, non-partisan and nonprofit think tank founded in 1998 that seeks to examine school curricula worldwide, with a focus on the Middle East. Its methodology is based on the international standards determined by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).