Open Doors Calls for Prayers, Peace in On-going Egyptian Violence
Violence erupted in the streets of Cairo on Sunday, October 9, when Christians staged a peaceful protest over the September 30th burning of a Coptic church in Aswan.
The Christian community in Egypt is in shock about Sunday’s violence where at least 26 people were killed and 180 injured, including many Christians. While several media, including national TV, question the origin of the violence between the security services and Coptic Christians, local Christians are clear about it. A believer from Cairo, who requested to remain anonymous, told Open Doors, “The Christians went out on a peaceful demonstration, it is taped. You can see the people walking from one place in the city in the direction of the television station where several demonstrations are held since the revolution. It was a mixed group including men, women and also children. They were singing praise songs and encouraged each other to lift up your heads with pride.” A local pastor reported, “We had to finish our evening service early last night as we could hear the guns firing and it sounded like a war was breaking out.”
According to the Associated Press, clashes resumed Monday. The response from Islamic community has been divided. Some moderate Muslims have been helping and defending Christians, but more radical Muslims have been stopping drivers to ask if they are Christians and then breaking their windows and damaging their cars. Further reports have been received of violence being carried out against Christians in provinces in the south of country.
Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA reports that Egyptian Christians are frustrated over a string of church bombings and closures since New Year’s Day when a suicide bomber killed 22 Christians in front of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria. While the end of the Mubarak regime brought a measure of freedom to many of the people of Egypt, Christians have been increasingly targeted, reports Moeller. “And they feel the current military leaders have done little to protect them and insure their religious rights.” According to Compass Direct News, attacks on Coptic churches are part of a larger and ever-increasing trend taking place in Egypt whereby a government official in a province or municipality grants permission for a church to be built or re-opened and hard-line Muslims threaten violence if services take place. Coptic leaders accuse the government of playing a colluding role in the violence by not enforcing the law, including a recently renewed and expanded Emergency Law, which stipulates imprisonment as a penalty for acts of sectarian strife, “thuggery” and vandalism of private property.
Egypt is ranked No. 19 on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians. It has by far the largest Christian minority in the Middle East – an estimated 10 million in a national population of 80 million.
Egypt’s Coptic church leaders have called on followers to fast and pray for three days this week to mourn Christians killed in the clashes. Moeller adds, “This is a time for the entire body of Christ to pray for the church in Egypt and the entire region.” Won’t you join these prayers rising up before God?
Father, we bring before You the plight of Christians in Egypt and call on You to bend Your ear to their cry. Comfort those who lost loved ones in Sunday’s violence. Provide for the employment needs of those families and other Christians in the country. Equip the ministry of the local churches and pastors with needed resources and training that Your Word might go out in power and authority. As you work all things for the good of Your church, we pray that the recent outbreak of violence against them will bring to light the human rights violations taking place and result in justice that the glory of Your name might be freely proclaimed. Amen