Open Doors Helping Egyptian Christians Recover from Massive Destruction, Pain
Looking down the village’s main street, where the only Coptic Orthodox Church is located, the scene was like a war zone…indeed, the destruction was massive. Markus* and a few other church members took their first discovery trip into the neighborhood of their church, near many of the houses and shops of church members. They had been commissioned by the church priest to investigate whether or not the Friday morning mass could still take place in their completely burnt down sanctuary. The day before, the neighborhood had just witnessed the most dreadful and systematic attack from radical Muslim mobs. Almost every Christian-related place in the village was attacked, looted, destroyed or burnt down on the gloomy day of Aug. 14. After the Muslim noon prayer, hundreds of angry attackers, armed with all sorts of thick sticks, knives and guns marched into the street, shouting victory against “infidels” – in this case, meaning the Christian families living and working down the street in the Upper Egyptian village. From building to building, shop to shop and door to door, crowds of enraged Muslims helped themselves in destructive looting, breaking into every house, shop and eventually into the village church. Victory was claimed and joyfully shouted by attackers when one “heroic” member of the mob managed to reach the church’s steeple, crashing down the church’s big electric cross from the top. Eventually, they set it on fire in the church courtyard. It did not take long for the invaders to begin looting computers, furniture and any other valuables that they could carry, setting the entire place on fire after they were done. Young teenage Adel* almost had a heart attack when he saw his life-time dream computer carried off out of their small apartment door. His 22-year-old sister Salwa,* whose wedding was scheduled in a few weeks’ time, almost fainted watching her brand-new kitchen appliances, pans, pots, sets of glasses and bedroom linens (bought recently for her new home) carted off by the unwelcomed visitors. Some could only resort to hysterical screaming and weeping, to express their panic and loss. The attackers left after setting fire the small apartment, leaving the family behind, desperately trying to put out the fire and save the remains of the only place where they had always felt safe in this world – their little home.
The New Testament testimony of love and forgiveness demonstrated by Egypt’s Christians, even after more than 85 churches and institutions and many Christian owned properties were viciously attacked and burned, has been heard and deeply admired by millions of moderate Egyptian Muslims. Following the teachings of Jesus, Christian believers have unprecedentedly chosen not to retaliate or attack their persecutors. After all, Egyptian Christians were reminded that the real meaning of the church is the fellowship of Christians, even if they had to meet in a blackened shell of a sanctuary. In the face of this massive loss and misery all over Upper Egypt, Christian ministries cannot just talk about sympathy and compassion. Practical help is desperately needed. The damages inflicted on the homes and businesses of some Christians were total, while for others they were partial. In both cases, help was greatly needed to give some affected Christians a possible new start -- and to others just a bit of a hand, to give hope for the unknown future. Through extensive case reviews and networking with local churches and ministry partners, Open Doors has enabled Egyptian teams to put together a long list of names of families and individual victims of the attacks. Due to security challenges this research work has taken considerable time, and there are ongoing safety concerns for the teams traveling between villages and towns to confirm and provide needed practical aid. But just a month after the catastrophic attacks, a majority of the heavily affected Christians have been identified and are already receiving physical and emotional support through Open Doors channels and other ministry groups. Open Doors USA has begun a $430,000 campaign to help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. To make a donation, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org and click the “Help Egypt” icon. The funds will help pay for the following:
• Repainting Christians’ blackened houses and replacing wooden windows and doors
• Buying new basic furniture, appliances, beds, mattresses, linens, cookers, water heaters, small refrigerators, gas bottles, sofas, blankets and manual washing machines
• Buying bulk food needs of wheat and rice
• Buying clothes for parents and children
• Replacing a number of buffaloes and sheep stolen from farmers
• Providing some stock goods for looted groceries, paint shops, furniture, tools for a barber shop and shoes for a shoe shop
• Provision of temporary housing for pastors and their families whose homes were destroyed or left unlivable
• Providing funds to put roofs for small primitive houses for 30 Christian families who had to move out of their village and seek more secure shelters near the desert monastery outside their village
• Funds have already been provided to help purchase school supplies, bags of food and repair homes and shops.
*Their real names have been protected due to security concerns
Interfaith Conflict Threatens to Engulf Central African Republic – from World Watch Monitor
Clashes between Christians and Muslims in the northwest of the Central African Republic (CAR) have increased fears of a prolonged interfaith divide in the country. The CAR, which borders Chad, Sudan and the Congos, was one of the world’s most evangelized nations (at least on a superficial level), reports Operation World, the internationally recognized handbook of global missions. It says the CAR is 76 percent Christian and 14 percent Muslim. In March, Michel Djotodia ousted the then President in a coup, largely supported by a coalition of rebel groups, including Islamists, which had previously fought to gain power across the north where the Muslim minority is based. The country’s Evangelical Alliance has condemned this latest violence, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 100 people. On Sept. 8 armed men, who claimed to be close to ex-President François Bozizé, launched attacks in the town of Bossangoa, 155 miles from Bangui, the capital, killing Muslim civilians, according to government spokesman Guy-Simplice Kodégué. Séléka rebels dispatched troops in the area, carrying out violent acts against Christians, causing many casualties. Witnesses contacted by World Watch Monitor reported summary executions, burned houses and looted churches. The violence spread to other nearby communities, such as Bouca, 62 miles from Bossangoa. There have been at least 100 deaths so far, while 50 have been injured, according to government figures. Pastor Nicolas Guerékoyamé, President of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in CAR (who was last month arrested for speaking out) condemned the latest violence, which, he says, is leading the country towards sectarian conflict. “We appeal to all communities of the Central African Republic not to yield to the temptation of interfaith divide,” he told World Watch Monitor. A week after the violence, tension remains high in the northwest of the country. The Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr Dieudonné Nzapalainga, visited the area to comfort the victims and assess their needs. Similar initiatives have also been carried out by senior Muslim leaders.
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).