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CAIRO, Egypt (Morning Star News) – More than a week after a Muslim went on an anti-Christian rampage in Upper Egypt that left one woman dead and another wounded, many area Coptic women are still too afraid to leave their homes, residents said.
In Kom Ombo, 48 kilometers (30 miles) north of Aswan, the Muslim on Feb. 8 attacked several Christians, including employees of two Coptic-owned pharmacies and two students who were walking nearby. Although the alleged assailant has been arrested, residents fear there could be others whose sole motivation for attacking was hostility toward Christians.
Madline Wagih Demian, 30, was killed solely because of her faith, said her brother, Ayman Wagih Demian, while religious rights advocates say rumors about the mental stability of the suspect, Mahmoud Mohamed Ali, are circulating in order to conceal the religious motive and begin to build his defense.
“He killed her because she is a Christian,” Demian said. “There was nothing else. He was targeting Christian pharmacies. He went and tried to attack a Christian, and when he failed, he went to the next Christian pharmacy.”
Security officials arrested Ali, a Kom Ombo resident, around midnight the night of the attacks and are holding him in the town. Witnesses of the attacks, including three victims who survived, have identified him as the culprit.
The attacks began shortly before 7 p.m. when Ali walked up to the service counter of a Coptic-owned pharmacy, requested some medication and asked for the price. The clerk, who gave Morning Star News only his last name, Abanoub, told Ali that he had to check the price on his computer, and then Ali attacked.
“I told him, ‘What are you doing?’” Abanoub told Morning Star News. “And he said, ‘I am going to kill you. I am going to kill you.’ I held his hand that had the knife in it and the other hand and kicked him … [I] kept hitting him there until he fell on the floor and went outside the pharmacy.”
Ali went to another Coptic-owned pharmacy and, once inside, he pulled out the knife and plunged it into Madline Wagih Demian’s neck, severing one of her arteries, witnesses said. Demian screamed, fell to the floor and bled to death within seconds, they said.
Ali ran out of the pharmacy and found two high school girls, Marian Kamal Shafik, 19, and Youstina Nasser Gendy, 18, walking down the street. Moments before, Gendy and Shafik had waved hello to Demian, a mutual friend of theirs, as they passed. As they continued on their way, the two heard Demian’s last scream, not realizing something was wrong until seconds later.
“When I turned around to tell my friend to hurry up,” Gendy said. “I saw this guy come running out of the pharmacy, and he stabbed her in the shoulder from the back. Marian fell face-down on the ground. I went toward her, and she said, ‘Help me.’”
Ali had left the knife in Shafik’s back, and Gendy said she didn’t know whether to pull it out or not. Before she could act, Gendy saw Ali coming back for the knife, she said.
“He came back and pulled the knife out of her shoulder and told her, ‘You deserve it,’” Gendy said.
Gendy fled, running into a crowded street to escape Ali and to find help for Shafik. When she returned, Ali was gone.
Gendy was taken away from the attack in an ambulance carrying Shafik, who survived, and the body of Demian. For days Gendy was unable to talk and, without warning, would break into fits of screaming. She is starting to recover, but the words Ali said keep playing through her mind.
“What was the girl who was killed guilty of?” she said, her voice filling with anger. “What are we guilty of that we are not able to walk the street? What have we done to ‘deserve’ this?”
Ayman Wagih Demian said the killing has crushed his family. His sister, who was married, worked at the pharmacy to raise money to help take care of her ailing parents.
“I am deeply hurt. The whole house is hurt,” he said. “My father is so sad. The whole town is shocked and hurt by the incident. Since the incident, no woman comes out on the street alone as they used to.”
Unstable Drug Addict?
Almost immediately after Ali’s arrest, rumors began circulating throughout the town about possible reasons for the killing. Some townspeople said Ali was a drug addict seeking either drugs from or revenge against pharmacists. Others said Ali lost touch with reality after, in rapid succession, he was let go from a job, lost his mother to illness and then his wife was diagnosed with the same disease that killed his mother. Other townspeople, citing ties that some members of Ali’s family have with the Muslim Brotherhood, said that the Brotherhood capitalized on the mounting medical bills of Ali’s wife and paid him to commit the crimes.
Osama Wagdy, a human rights activist at Nations Without Borders, based in Kom Ombo, said the rumors are part of a smoke screen to shift blame away from Ali and establish the groundwork for his defense. Wagdy and other Copts are concerned that Ali will be characterized as insane or somehow otherwise mentally incompetent to stand trial, allowing him to escape punishment.
The tactic has been employed all too frequently in clear-cut cases of violence against Copts. And because of it, the impunity with which people can attack Christians in Egypt without punishment encourages other attacks, Egyptian human rights activists say. There are no jury trials in Egypt, and judges accepting dubious insanity pleas allows leaders in Egypt to claim there is no persecution in Egypt, human rights activists say; if officials can claim perpetrators of anti-Christian violence aren’t products of a system rife with religious bigotry but are instead mentally ill, then they can claim assailants are therefore not representative of Egyptian society at large.
Wagdy said Ali clearly chose his victims “because they are Christians.” The retail pharmacy trade in Egypt is seen to be dominated by Copts, and according to witnesses, Ali passed up several opportunities to attack Muslims, instead, going from one Coptic-owned pharmacy to another.
While many persecution-related crimes against Copts have more than one motivation, such as monetary gain in the recent spate of Coptic kidnappings, or political revenge in the past month’s shootings of police who guard Egypt’s numerous churches, the Feb. 8 stabbings seem to have been motivated purely by a desire to kill Christians.
“If he was attacking random people, he could have attacked anybody on the street even if they weren’t Christian,” Demian said. “Not every time a crime happens against a Christian, the one that does it is mentally ill.”
Pain and Faith
One of the young women stabbed, Shafik, has come to some level of resolution about the attack. She said she feels God was protecting her during the attack and is now using what happened to her to make sure Ali is kept from harming others, and that Demian’s death will be punished. She also feels God allowed her to be attacked to teach her an important lesson.
Shafik said she didn’t feel the knife go into her back. At first she didn’t even see the assailant, she said. He “came all of a sudden and stabbed me. I didn’t turn around. I was stabbed quickly while my friend was screaming,” she said.
The knife went in deep but missed vital organs, she said, adding, “It was a miracle.”
Saying she didn’t remember what Ali yelled at her, Shafik said she only remembers “his face was full of anger.”
Shafik was taken to the closest medical facility that could be found until an ambulance arrived – a veterinary clinic.
“I was out of breath and I couldn’t talk,” she said. “My wound was bleeding, but I didn’t feel it. I feel God has given me the strength to deal with the pain.”
She was treated in a hospital, and then hours later was taken to the site where Ali was arrested. She was able to identify him to authorities, she said.
“I also feel like God let me go through this to identify the person who killed Madline, otherwise no one would have witnessed this, and no one would know for certain who killed her.”
The most important thing that happened through this incident was that her faith in God was renewed, Shafik said. Before the attack, she was buried in loneliness and thought God had abandoned her, she said.
“I was away from God,” she said. “I was upset at God, and He let me go through this to tell me He hasn’t left me, and that He would be with me in all situations.”
Please pray for the victims of this crime and for all Christians in Egypt. May the Lord give them strength to endure and to not live in fear. Pray also for their persecutors. They are lost and without God.
The new security measures make it virtually impossible to attack the building and show “the government here cares about us,” Canon White – known as the “vicar of Baghdad” – says.
However the violence targeted against Christians in Baghdad and elsewhere in the region continues.
This weekend Lord Sacks, the outgoing Chief Rabbi in Britain, warns that the plight of Christians in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt is a tragedy “going almost unremarked”.
In an interview with The Telegraph Lord Sacks described continuous attacks on Christian believers and churches as “the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing”.
The Chief Rabbi said being Jewish, “you cannot but feel this very deeply and personally”.
He likened the violence to the persecution faced by Jews in Arab countries following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Canon White too says there is a worrying silence in British public life about the attacks on Christians in Iraq.
“The majority of political and religious leaders still don’t talk about it. The religious leaders seem to be more concerned with who is doing the flower arranging on a Sunday and whether a gay priest is going to be ordained or not.
“Most people have no idea this is going on – they really have no idea at all.”
The situation in Iraq is “considerably different” to other countries in the region because there Christians are not targeted “in any way” by the government. Instead, the biggest threat comes from al-Qaeda.
In the aftermath of the Anglo-US invasion of Iraq 10 years ago Christians were targeted as an alien minority, accused of being in league with the West.
In October 2010, gunmen attacked the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, killing 56 worshippers.
“Christians are so frightened,” Canon White says. “The Christians here are frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets.
“We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only got 200,000 left in Iraq. There are more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than here.”
As well as running a medical clinic and food kitchen at St George’s, Canon White leads the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
Through this organization he arranges summits with Sunni and Shia leaders to help control the violence.
“We have worked very closely with both the Sunni and Shia leaders in order that we can move forward in the right direction and in order that we can get these people to prevent the masses from joining the extremists.
“If we don’t have those meetings then the support we have against violence from the Sunni and the Shia goes away.”
During a brief trip to London this month Canon White met the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a close friend with extensive experience in the field of reconciliation and whose son, Tim, works for Canon White in Iraq.
“I think now we have Archbishop Justin things are going to be different. He really understands and cares about this issue. He is the best news we have had on this subject for years.”
The Archbishop has also expressed concern about the situation in Egypt, where the Coptic Church in Britain says more than 100 Christian churches, properties and individuals were attacked between August 14 and August 22 alone.
In July, Archbishop Welby and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, pledged their “committed solidarity” with the Coptic and Anglican leaders in Egypt amid ongoing violence.
Days later, when the Archbishop visited Egypt he spent time with Dr Mouneer Anis, the leader of the Anglican Church in the Middle East and North Africa.
Dr Anis told the Telegraph that attacks on Christians during the year-long rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, with Mohamed Morsi as president, were collectively worse than the violence experienced by churchgoers in the entire decade beforehand.
Moderate Muslims are also threatened by the Islamist organization and “are in the same boat as us”, Dr Anis says.
A ban on the Brotherhood had been in place for much of its existence but was lifted after the fall of the former military leader, Hosni Mubarak.
“Some people think that when we say this as Christians we say this because the Muslim Brotherhood are enemies. Not at all.
“When the Muslim Brotherhood came and started to rule Egypt we were hoping that things would get better and the president assured us that things would get better and Christians would get the right to build churches. But nothing like that happened.”
Dr Anis fears that attacks since the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt’s democratically-elected president, in July, are “revenge” for the presence of the Coptic pope at the army’s announcement of its move.
“They attacked churches particularly to take revenge. Pope Tawadros was there on July 3 at the announcement of the removal of Morsi, so they were doing this as revenge [against] the Coptic Orthodox Pope.”
Bishop Angaelos of Britain’s Coptic Orthodox Church believes referring to the attacks as “retaliation” risks “inadvertantly justifying” the violence.
“When Morsi was overthrown the Brotherhood wanted a scapegoat and they held the Christians up as a scapegoat,” he says.
One Coptic Christian in Egypt, Osama Makram Amin, an electrician in Minya, saw his church burned down on August 14.
An armed mob laid siege to the Bishop Moussa church, then looted and burned the building. It was one of 14 churches, homes and businesses targeted in the city that day, in what appeared to be retaliatory attacks over the security services’ killing of Morsi supporters in Cairo.
Osama says he does not feel safe in Egypt anymore. “My church was burned in front of my eyes, I had to leave my house for two days.”
As a Christian in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, he has grown increasingly worried about his family’s safety.
“I just want to know that I can leave my house and go to work without having to fear about what will happen when I leave,” he says.
He says that although the majority of his neighbours tried to prevent the attack, some turned on him when he tried to intervene.
“I told one man not to burn the school where my children study. He turned around and tried to stab me.”
“Even before the  revolution, I wanted to leave the country. But now I am certain. I want to go to a country where rights are respected, I want a better life for my family.”
He is unimpressed at the level of support that Egypt’s Christians receive from abroad.
“We are not supported enough by the West,” he says “In fact, I think they support the Islamists. But I want to live there anyway, because there they will deal with me as a human being.”
Islamist terrorists have exploited the lawless Sinai to perpetrate vicious attacks on Egyptian Christians there, as reported earlier this week in the New York Times. Indeed, throughout Egypt, the Copts continue to be targeted and scapegoated for the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As defenseless and abandoned as Mideast Christians seem today, it is worth remembering their historical roots, and recognizing just how much the plight of Middle East Christians has deteriorated. Over 2,000 years ago, Christianity was born as a religion and spread from Jerusalem to other parts of the Levant, including territories in modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. The Christian faith flourished as one of the major religions in the Middle East until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century.
Despite Muslim domination of the region, Christians comprised an estimated 20% of the Middle East population until the early 20th century. Today, however, Christians make up a mere 2-5% of the Middle East and their numbers are fast dwindling. Writing in the Winter 2001 issue of Middle East Quarterly, scholar Daniel Pipes estimated that Middle East Christians would “likely drop to” half of their numbers “by the year 2020″ because of declining birth rates, and a pattern of “exclusion and persecution” leading to emigration.
The “Arab Spring” has only worsened conditions for the indigenous Christians of the Middle East. Like the Kurds, Middle East Christians are a stateless minority, struggling to survive in the world’s toughest neighborhood. But the Kurds at least have enjoyed partial autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991 and most of them are Sunni Muslim, making it easier for them to survive in the Muslim-dominated Middle East. Christians, on the other hand, are a religious minority that controls no territory and is entirely subject to the whims of their hosts. These host countries – with the exception of Israel – offer a grim future to Middle East Christians. Home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Egypt also has the largest Christian population in the Middle East, totaling 8-12 million people. But because Christian Copts make up only about 10-15% of Egypt’s estimated 80 million people, they have for decades lived in fear as second-class citizens, subjected to attacks on churches, villages, homes, and shops; mob killings; and the abduction and forced Islamic conversion of Christian women compelled to marry Muslim men. Such abuse took place under the staunchly secular regime of Hosni Mubarak, but grew much worse under the rule of Mohammed Morsi, the jailed Muslim Brotherhood activist who succeeded Mubarak, and they are now being blamed for Morsi’s ouster.
In Lebanon, Christians represent a bigger portion of the population, so their fate is for now less precarious than that of their Egyptian coreligionists, but their long-term prospects are worrisome. The Christian population is estimated to have dropped from over 50% (according to a 1932 census) to about 40%. Over the last few years, the de facto governing power in Lebanon has become Hezbollah, the radical and heavily-armed Shiite movement sponsored by Iran. With all of the spillover violence and instability produced by the Syrian civil war and Hezbollah’s open involvement in it, and/or the next war that Hezbollah decides to start with Israel, the emigration of Christians out of Lebanon will probably only increase in the coming years, leaving those who stay increasingly vulnerable.
In Syria, 2.5 million Christians comprised about 10% of the population and enjoyed some protection under the secular and often brutal regimes of the Assad dynasty. But as jihadi groups fighting Assad extend their territorial control, the past protection of Christians is often the cause of their current persecution by resentful Sunnis who revile the Assad regime and seek to impose Sharia law wherever they can. Christians have been regularly targeted and killed by rebels, and the sectarian chaos and violence that will likely prevail in Assad’s wake will only increase the number of Christians fleeing Syria.
In Iraq, the bloody aftermath of the 2003 invasion demonstrated how dangerous life can become for a Christian minority when a multicultural society in the Middle East explodes into sectarian violence. By 2008, half of the 800,000 Iraqi Christians were estimated to have left, rendering those remaining even more insecure. In 2010, Salafist extremists attacked a Baghdad church during Sunday Mass, killing or wounding nearly the whole congregation. Such incidents turn any communal gathering into a potential massacre, forcing Christians across the Middle East to ask the ultimate question of faith:
“Am I prepared to die for Christian worship?”
The so-called “Arab Spring” threatens to exacerbate matters in much of the Middle East, as Islamists now either control the government or influence it enough to persecute Christians with impunity. As new Islamist regimes in the Middle East condone religious intolerance and introduce Sharia and blasphemy laws, the long-term trend for Christians in their ancestral lands will only grow bleaker.
The one bright spot is the state of Israel – “the only place in the Middle East [where] Christians are really safe,” according to the Vicar of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, Canon Andrew White. Home to Christianity’s holiest sites and to a colorful array of Christian denominations, Israel has the only growing Christian community in the Middle East.
Because Israel is the only non-Muslim state in all of the Middle East and North Africa, it represents a small victory for religious minorities in the region, and serves as the last protector of freedom and security for Jews, Christians, Bahai, Druze, and others. Without Israel, how much more vulnerable would Christians in the Middle East become?
Source JERUSALEM, Israel — From the West Coast of Africa to the deserts of Sinai, Bedouin tribes are conducting a human trafficking trade on a massive scale. It’s no secret. The trade reaps millions of dollars and deals with human misery. It could be stopped but so far no one has dared. “By that time I had lost sense (sensation) in both my hands,” an Eritrean torture victim told CBN News. “It was a result of the accumulated torture but mainly because (both) of my wrists were tied up so tightly, (and I was) hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”
Torture in the Sinai
This man is just one victim of this widespread modern-day slavery, kidnapping, and torture trade in the Sinai desert. There are many pictures and videos of this horrible practice on the Internet. For this story, this Christian man from the African country of Eritrea is going by “Philip,” but that’s not his real name. CBN News covered his identity for his protection.
“In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians,” he told us, his chest trembling slightly as he spoke. “Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago — even a bit more — it started also to be a place of human torture,” Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBN News. Shorham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors, like Philip, made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented.
“They torture them in horrible methods, like hanging upside down from the ceiling, like using electric shocks, like burning them on their bodies,” Shorham said.
Kidnapped for Ransom This story begins in Eritrea, where many like Philip fled from its brutal dictatorship. He traveled to a United Nations refugee camp in Sudan. There he was kidnapped by a Bedouin tribe. They transferred him — along with many others — through Sudan, Egypt, and all the way to the Sinai desert and their torture camps. What happens next in these camps is diabolical.
“What they make you do is call your family and ask them for the money,” Philip explained. “Usually they will do the asking. They will say, ‘Either send this money or your brother will die or your father will die or your son will die.’ It depends on whoever is picking up the phone.”
“While you’re talking to your family they would pour molten plastic on your body so that you would scream and perhaps they thought that would persuade your family to pay or collect the money faster,” he said.
The tribesmen demands are for most poor Eritrean families is a king’s ransom.
“The ransom fees can go up to $40,000 for an individual and even $50,000, and until the ransom fees (are) paid, the people will not be released,” Shoham explained. The financial burden on the families is devastating.”
Killing a Soul Sister Azziza is a Catholic nun from Eritrea who is based in Jerusalem. She has interviewed many of the Sinai survivors. “People are destroyed physically (and) psychologically because of what they know they did to their family, how they are living,” Sister Azziza told CBN News. But many do not make it out alive. “We estimate that around 4,000 people died in the Sinai, some of them from torture,” Shoham said. Many who were with Philip died.
“We couldn’t help them; that was the most horrible thing,” he recalled. “Some you know. You have experienced some of the harshest treatment in this world and yet they’re dying and you couldn’t do anything to help them. That was horrible.
Hanged Like Christ Yet the torture and the dying go on. CBN News talked with a 35-year-old Eritrean woman named Segen. She is five month’s pregnant. Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean human rights activist living in Sweden, arranged our conversation. The kidnappers give them cell phones so they can call their family and friends. We talked via Skype, linking Sweden, Jerusalem, and the Sinai. It was sobering. You could hear the strain in Segen’s voice.
“They are asking for money every minute and they hit us and they put us — they will make us lie down on the floor and you know their feet would be up and they would hit their feet and melt with melted plastic bags,” Estefanos said.
“And so that way they cannot stand because they will torture their feet, and every day they hang them the way they hang Jesus Christ,” she said.
“What does she mean when they hang them like Jesus Christ?” CBN News asked.
“They hang us the way He was hanged and they take off their clothes. While they are naked they will hang them. And they will just hit them with big bats like all day for hours,” she said.
No Secret to the World Many of the Etritreans, like Segen and Philip, are Christians. Many don’t survive.
“There are around 7,000 that went through these torture camps and 4,000 that died. Those are huge numbers and I don’t think that the world needs to keep quiet about that,” Shoham said.
Philip miraculously survived and made it to Israel where he received life-saving medical treatment. The location of these torture camps is no secret. “Their location and whereabouts is known already by many high officials,” human rights activist Majed El Shafie told CBN News.
“The only way out of this problem is for the international society or the international community to put pressure on the Egyptian government to release the victims, to stop these human traffickers,” he said.
Shafie believes some of the American financial aid to Egypt could be used — with conditions — to help these victims.
“Every American listening to us right now — not only Americans but anybody in the world — can make a difference,” he said.
“You can contact your congressman. You can contact your senator. You can show them that you care about these issues,” he said. “If you send an email, or fax or make a telephone call, he can save a life.”
If you are in need of help finding your congressmen and Senators, Voice of the Persecuted would be happy to get that information to you! We must all raise our VOICE to put a stop to this horrific problem. As Christians we must stand for our brothers and sisters, along with all others being tortured and abused.
We are witnessing the prophecy of hearts growing colder. If you are paying attention to the events taking place worldwide, that can’t be denied. Our great God has chosen you for this specific time in history. He makes no mistakes. He has called us to be a light in this world that is growing ever darker. With that call comes immense responsibility, but don’t let that shake you. There is a great power with you!
Feeling sorry for the world is not enough, we are called to STAND! We are called to ACTION, so MOVE Christians. He is with you and with God, nothing is impossible! May God bless and guide your path!
Christians wonder how long violence could last.
CAIRO, Egypt (Morning Star News) – In scattered locations across Egypt, mobs of hard-line Muslims enraged over the deposing of the country’s Islamist president this week attacked Christian homes, business and church buildings and were suspected in the shooting death of a priest.
In Northern Sinai, gunmen reportedly killed priest Mina Aboud Sharween as he walked in the Masaeed area of El Arish.
Angry over what they saw as a coup, the attacks came as part of massive, nationwide protests culminating in a declared “Friday of rage.”
Fewer than 12 hours after the Egyptian military announced that it had expelled Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi and his cabinet members from office, reports of attacks against Christians by Morsi supporters began trickling in. The attacks picked up steam, and by Friday afternoon (July 5), the national police service notified church leaders to be on the lookout for license plate numbers of several cars that informants said terrorists had packed with explosives, a source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. The source said police informed Christian leaders that the cars were headed toward churches in Cairo and the surrounding area looking for targets.
Christians across the country were uncertain about their future, wondering if the violence would be short-lived or whether the past week was the start of a civil war in which they would be targeted as Christians in Syria are.
“This is just the beginning,” said one Coptic Christian woman from Upper Egypt who requested anonymity for fear of her safety. “They won’t be happy until they steal everything we own and kill us all. How can anyone be full of so much hate? If I took my eyes off God, I would shrink and die.”
The first attack happened in the early morning hours of Wednesday (July 3) in the village of Delgia in Deir Mawas, Minya Governorate. Dozens of Morsi supporters attacked Al Eslah Church, a building that belongs to an evangelical congregation. They fired shots at and looted the church building, sources said; there were multiple reports that the building had been burned, though that could not be confirmed with certainty. They also attacked some Coptic-owned homes in the area.
Witnesses said the mob then moved on to a Catholic church in Delgia, St. George Church, and set aflame a guest-house where a priest lives. The mob also pelted the church building with rocks, fired weapons at it and destroyed the priest’s car, Morning Star News learned from the witnesses.
The priest was in the guest-house when it was set on fire, but he was able to make it to a hole in the roof, where a group of Muslim neighbors pulled him out and hid him from the mob. The priest suffered only superficial injuries, but the guest-house was destroyed along with several Christian-owned businesses, according to church officials.
Later the same day, a group of Islamists tried to attack the main Coptic cathedral in Qena, but the military fought them off. The group moved on to attack Christian-owned homes and businesses in the area, sources said. Also on Wednesday (July 3), a mob attacked the Church of the Holy Virgin in the coastal town of Marsa Matrouh with stones, but the military also repelled them.
“It is a miracle no one was killed in the attacks – I am really worried about my family, because they live so close to the church,” the woman from Upper Egypt told Morning Star News. “They can be attacked any time now.”
On Friday (July 5), arguably the worst attack happened in Naga Hassan village, west of Luxor. Its origins cannot be confirmed, but according to The Egypt Independent, a Muslim was killed in a fight with a Coptic Christian. In the rioting that followed, Muslim villagers went on a rampage, looting and burning Christian owned homes and businesses.
Dozens of Coptic homes were burned down, according to the Independent. Expecting more attacks, police have asked Copts in the village to leave their homes until the fighting stops, Morning Star News learned from other sources. Also attacked was the Church of the Virgin Mary in downtown Luxor, located directly across from a madrassa (Islamic school) run by Salafists, strict Sunni Muslims who pattern their practice after the earliest generations of Muslims. No one was harmed in any of the attacks, and damages were unknown.
On Sunday (June 30), millions of protestors from the Tamard or “Rebel” movement gathered in cities across Egypt demonstrating against then-President Morsi, of the Freedom and Justice Party, a political party created by the Muslim Brotherhood. The month prior, activists went throughout the country collecting signatures of people demanding his ouster and inviting them to the June 30 protest. According to the activists, they collected 22 million signatures.
The members of the group had a long list of offenses they say Morsi committed, from unilaterally issuing decrees to seize power from other branches of the government to filling appointed government positions with hard-line Islamic allies while ignoring other segments of the Egyptian population.
They also accused him of being incompetent in handling the economy. During his year in office, revenues from tourism plummeted, rolling blackouts became common, the price of food staples rose dramatically and the country began experiencing fuel shortages. During the entire month that the petition was distributed, people commonly waited three to six hours in line for gas, even in the best neighborhoods in Cairo.
At the same time, crime spiraled out of control and riots became a daily occurrence.
On Wednesday (July 3) Egypt’s military chief announced that Morsi had been deposed, and the next day Supreme Constitutional Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour was sworn in as Egypt’s interim president. Morsi was said to be under arrest.
Samia Sidhom, managing editor of the Coptic Weekly Watani, said people wanted Morsi out because he was more interested in consolidating the power of the Muslim Brotherhood than putting Egypt on a solid road to the future. The Freedom and Justice party also lied to the public in a brazen fashion on a daily basis, she added.
“Their priority was not the Egyptian people, but establishing an Islamic caliphate,” she said. “They said they would be inclusive; that they would make Egypt a prosperous country. But once they got into office, they did the exact opposite.”
Sidhom said the attacks, although horrible, were to be expected.
“Everyone was expecting they would take their revenge,” she said.
In the month leading up to the protests, when the success of the petition against Morsi became evident, his supporters and other hard-line Muslims began threatening Christians on television and in Brotherhood and Salafist-owned newspapers. When Morsi was forced from office, Islamists across the board blamed Christians, the military and “secularists.” In numerous television talk shows and religious shows, they called for Christian “blood to be spilled.”
A jihadist Website blamed Christians for Morsi’s downfall, The Washington Post reported on Friday (July 5). Stating that Muslim extremists within and outside of Egypt had called for violence, the newspaper reported that the Website announced a new group, Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt (Partisans for Sharia in Egypt), which “rejected democracy as anti-Islamic and called on Egyptian Muslims to ‘truly rise against everyone who stands in the path of implementation of the Sharia.’”
A pastor from Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church who is politically active, Fawzi Wahib, said he is hopeful about the future, but he was more reflective about the present.
“I feel we pay the price of freedom,” he said.