Groups of Muslims attacked a Coptic Christian community in Egypt multiple times last week to protest a new church being built to honor several Christians slain by ISIS earlier this year.
Following midday prayers on Friday, an angry mob protested outside a Coptic church in al Our, vowing they would not allow the construction to proceed.
Later that night, a smaller group of men attacked the church with Molotov cocktails, injuring seven people and setting a car on fire, according to Daily News Egypt.
The Gospel Herald reported a mob also attacked the home of the family of one Coptic Christian martyr the same day. Witnesses identified some of the attackers as Muslim Brotherhood members, according to The Gospel Herald.
Mina Abdelmalak, a Coptic Christian who lives in Washington, D.C., but has close ties to witnesses of the incident, told Fox News about the attacks. She said Egyptian police did not arrive until it was over.
“There were already cars on fire,” Abdelmalak said. “People had been bloodied. Stones and bricks had been thrown.” She also said because of the attack, the government might require the new church be moved to a different location.
In February, ISIS released a video of the gruesome beheading of 21 Copts. Thirteen were Egyptians from al Our, a village in Minya province. Relatives sought permission, purchased land, and started building a church to honor their martyred family members.
The slain Copts were just a few of more than a million Egyptian day laborers working in Libya. Their beheadings prompted Egyptian airstrikes against ISIS, and especially grieved the Coptic community in al Our.
A Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) representative visited with bereaved family members in March. Esam Badir Samir’s mother said, “I knew he would be killed before I saw the video. But I had an indescribable peace in my heart.”
“My heart aches, but I thank God for giving me this amazing gift,” Samir’s father said. “He truly lived for Christ in amazing integrity and uprightness and now died for Christ. Esam has made us proud.”
Daily News Egypt reported President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave permission for the new church construction, a necessary step for Coptic houses of worship since the Ottoman era. Mosques are not required to get the same permission, according to Fox News.
According to Al-Monitor, there is a history of violence between Christians and Muslims in Minya. A 2009 report from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said it was a center of violence where small fights, rumors of inter-religious romance, and church construction often escalated to mass violence.
Since 2013, violence has increased in part because Muslim Brotherhood supporters blamed Copts for their political downfall. Immediately following the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, scores of churches in Egypt were looted and burned, according to Human Rights Watch.
“We are faced with many difficulties, most important of which is that people here have highly volatile temperaments, with full-blown sectarian strife almost erupting as a result of trivial disputes that nearly become religious catastrophes,” Minya province security chief Maj. Gen. Osama Metwally told Al-Monitor in 2014.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Thinkstock
Publication date: April 7, 2015