Islamist Mobs Force Church Closures

Coptic Christians in Egypt mourn the victims of a massacre on a bus of Copts en route to a monastery.
Coptic Christians in Egypt mourn the victims of a massacre on a bus of Copts en route to a monastery. (Photo: MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

Four churches have been forced to close in Egypt due to attacks by local Muslims, the UK’s Express reported.

The closures, which occurred in the Minya region south of Cairo, began when the Coptic Christian Church of al-Azraa came under a stoning attack. Officials decided to close the property for safety of the worshipers.

The closure, however, emboldened the attackers. Sensing the lack of police effort to provide security to the Christians in the area, the mob went on to attack three more churches which subsequently were forced to close down as well.

Coptic leaders charge that authorities do nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state, however, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for. The Coptic Christians (must now) go to the neighboring villages to perform their prayers,” said Anba Makarios.

“What happened within two weeks hasn’t happen over years,” Makarios added.  “Churches are closed, the Coptic Christians are being attacked and their property destroyed, and there is no deterrent. The Copts always pay the price of this coexistence, not the aggressors.”

However, attacks on Coptic Christians have occurred sporadically in that time frame. On the eve of the Islamic month of Ramadan at the end of May 2017, masked gunmen targeted a bus and other vehicles of Copts travelling to a monastery in central Egypt, killing 28 people including a number of children.

Makarios also noted, “When there is any dispute or an attack, the first alternative is to close the church and put pressure only on the Copts with impunity for the aggressors.”

One Coptic Christian who asked to remain anonymous explained, “Christians are considered as infidels, following a corrupt faith, reading a corrupt bible.” He noted that most of the Muslims in the area are “either illiterate or very poorly educated.  [They] blindly follow teaching of those who uphold the conception that Christians are infidels.”

 

Get a preview of Clarion Project’s latest film, Faithkeepers, about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region. You can host a screening of the film by clicking here.

 

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Meira Svirsky
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org