Christians in the Minya region south of Cairo in Egypt have been forced to close down four churches because Christian worshipper continuously come under attack by Muslims in the areas.
After a series of attacks, which Egyptian authorities failed to address, church leaders are now pleading for support. Coptic leaders said they kept quiet for two weeks to allow officials carry out investigations but nothing has happened. The leaders have now accused Egypt of treating Christian as criminals.
Anba Makarios said, “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 go to the neighbouring villages to perform their prayers.”
The Coptic church leaders explained that four churches had to close after Muslims launched vicious attacks on Christian worshippers, encouraged by a lack of police efforts to provide security and stop the attacks and harassment.
For reasons of safety, church leaders closed the Church of al-Azraa but this encouraged mobs to attack three other churches: the church of Anba Mousa, the church of Abu Sayfen and the church of Mar Gerges.
The authorities are still doing nothing to bring those responsible to justice, the Coptic Orthodox leader in Minya complained.
Makarios explained that the level of harassment and assault on Christians in the region has risen in the last one year. “What happened within two weeks, hasn’t happen over years. 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,” he added.
Makarios lamentaed that “the reactions of officials are disappointing, and 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.” He added.
Speaking anonymously, a Coptic Christian said, “Christians are considered as infidels, following a corrupt faith, reading a corrupt bible.”
He also explained that most of the Muslim population in the region, “is either illiterate or very poorly educated.” And they “blindly follow teaching of those who uphold the conception that Christians are infidels.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of Anglican Diocese of Jos