Worthy News Middle East Service with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- The livelihood of at least hundreds of thousands of Christians in Cairo and other areas was threatened Wednesday, May 6, as Egypt's government announced it would go ahead with slaughtering the country's pigs to combat swine flu and improve hygienic conditions.
The move came despite protests from impoverished farmers and garbage collectors who claim authorities and Muslims use the global swine flu outbreak as an excuse to further attack minority Christians.
Consumption of pork is frowned upon by the Muslim community and it is the Coptic Christian families who form a huge portion of Egypt’s pig farmers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also criticized the planned slaughter of Egypt's estimated 300.000 pigs as "entirely unnecessary", saying no swine flu cases have been reported in the country so far.
Yet, the government expanded the rationale for the slaughter to confront what it said was a long-standing hygienic problem posed by pigs and garbage dumps in densely populated areas of the capital, Cairo.
However,"Our pigs are healthy. They are our capital and they have no diseases," said Adel Ishak, a rubbish collector from Manshiet Nasser, northeast of Cairo in published remarks.
"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?" added Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer. "We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?"
Copts follow a doctrine similar to Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches and are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 77 million - making them the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
Nearly 150 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu A/H1N1 infection in humans have been officially reported to the WHO. These are from nine countries, including 91 from the United States, with one death, and 26 from Mexico, with seven deaths, news reports said.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has confirmed two cases, while it is currently verifying two suspected cases.
Symptoms of swine flu include fever, coughing, joint pain, severe headache and in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.