By Shahira Amin, Special to CNN
(CNN)– It’s Orthodox Christmas, but the mood in Cairo’s working-class Shobra district this year is somber. There aren’t many colorful festivities and decorations that traditionally mark Eastern Christmas celebrations in this predominantly Christian neighborhood, and Shobra’s Coptic Christian residents say they are in no mood to celebrate.
Growing concerns about the rights of Egypt’s Copts, who make up an estimated 12% of the population, have dampened the mood of Christians, overshadowing this year’s celebrations.
“Many of my friends and relatives have left the country,” said 27-year-old Beshoy Ragheb. “I would leave, too, if I had a place to go.”
Threats by Muslim extremists against Coptic Christians in the past year have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in Dahshur and the Egyptian border town of Rafah. Meanwhile, extremist attacks on Christian churches and brutal attacks by security and military forces on Christian protesters demanding the protection of their churches in October 2011 remain vivid in the memories of many of Egypt’s Christians.