Christians in Egypt Fearful After Attacks on Churches
At least 12 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded when members of Salifis, a hard-line Islamic movement, attacked at least two churches and surrounding Christian-owned homes and businesses in a poor section of Cairo last Saturday.
According to Compass News, the first attack began at St. Mina Church when a rumor spread that a Coptic woman, who allegedly converted to Islam, was being held in the church against her will. By 7:30pm crowds of Muslims chanting Islamic slogans and shouting Osama bin Laden’s name began marching down the streets. The Coptic community members quickly called each other and gathered at the church building. Dragging pews and other furniture out of the building the Coptic men built barricades on the streets to protect the church.
In attempts to dispel the rumor, the head clergy members of St. Mina allowed a group of Islamic imams into the church building to search for the woman. The imams declared to the gathering Muslims that the woman wasn’t in the building. But the Salafist crowd was not dissuaded by the imams’ report, and by 8:30 p.m. the fight had started.
After unsuccessfully trying to push through the barricades, the mob then went to the Virgin Mary Church and launched the second attack. According to Rev. Mittias Ilias, head priest of the Virgin Mary Church, the mob shot through locks on the church doors, went in and set the building on fire. The fire gutted the five-story structure except for a small chapel on the top floor of the building, which sustained substantial smoke damage. Ilias says the attack was senseless and beyond explanation.
One report said that of the dozen deaths that occurred during the violence, at least five were Christians. The attacks on the churches in Imbaba were just one of the several recent assaults on Coptic Christians, and the second time in two months that a church building in the country has been set ablaze, according to Compass. “Christians in Egypt are now living in constant fear,” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. “We need to be in prayer for these believers and for their persecutors, that the Lord would soften their hearts.” The 2011 Open Doors World Watch List places Egypt as No. 19 of 50 countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians. Coptic Christians are estimated to be 7 to 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 83 million.
Rev. Ilias said that he didn’t know how long it would take to reconstruct the building. However, the congregation will continue worshipping in the gutted building and hold services in shifts between renovation stints. “Where are we going to go?” Ilias said. “Where are the people going to pray?”
Father, in light of the attacks against churches in Egypt, we pray for favor upon the Christians who have been persecuted so severely for their faith. Please bring comfort to those who are mourning the loss of family members, and bring them into a deeper love and trust in You through this dark time. We also ask that You would bless the reconstructing work on the church building and that through this difficulty, people will continually lift their eyes to You and praise You.
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