“Every day we leave our house, not knowing what will happen,” says Girgis, an Egyptian Catholic from Helwan.
“Every day we leave our house, not knowing what will happen,” says Girgis, an Egyptian Catholic from Helwan, a city south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo, who preferred not to use his real name.
“But this is the Christian way, to take things day by day,” he added.
Girgis describes his normal routine as commuting to work, coming home, going to church, perhaps visiting relatives, but avoiding for the most part significant interactions with society.
Many Christians increasingly tend toward such isolation, he explains, though as a man, he says, he can blend in and escape the worst.
For his wife Maria (also not her real name), things are much harder. Christian women in Egypt, especially in lower-class neighborhoods like the one in which she and her family live, stand out for not wearing a head covering, which sets them apart from the great majority of Muslim women.
A mother of a three-year-old daughter and a one-year old son, she says their modest neighborhood in Cairo is all they can afford.
Reliance on public transportation is part of the family’s lifestyle. Beat up minivans cram up to 12 passengers in like sardines, taking them across town for the equivalent of 15 cents.
“The other day, I was climbing into the van with my two children as usual,” Maria tells her story, “and I called out the name of my neighborhood just to confirm. But the driver said he wasn’t going there, so I got out to ride in the correct one.”
“But then a Muslim woman came on board and asked for the same neighborhood, and the driver let her in, taking the last place. I was outraged and complained, but the man replied, ‘I’m free to let in who I like and force out who I like.’”