Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 00:04 GMT
Conversion' sparks Copt protest
By Heba Saleh
Relations between Christians and Muslims are occasionally tense
Hundreds of Egyptian Christians have been
protesting at the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in
Demonstrators hurled stones at policemen after they sealed off the cathedral.
The protest were provoked by rumours
that the wife of a priest in a town in northern
Coptic Christians form an estimated 10% of the country's population and often complain of discrimination.
The protestors have been in the main Coptic cathedral in
They are angry at the disappearance of the wife of a priest in a village in the Delta who is rumoured to have been forced to convert to Islam.
There is no exact information as to the whereabouts of the woman and no one is certain whether she left her home willingly or under pressure.
Priests have been urging the protestors to stay calm, but some have hurled stones at policemen who have sealed off the cathedral.
The Egyptian authorities have promised to locate the woman and restore her to her family.
Although relations between Christians and Muslims in
More generally, however, Copts complain that they often face discrimination and that they are vastly under-represented in senior government positions and in the army and the police.
Also, allegations of forced conversions surface every year.
The rise of an assertive Islamist movement in Egyptian society in the last three decades has produced tensions in Coptic-Muslim relations.