For the last three days the Egyptian army has been systematically destroying the protective fences that Coptic Christians recently built around three of their monasteries.
Three ancient monasteries in Egypt are among the oldest continuously functioning Christian religious establishments in the world. Until the recent insurrection and the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, the monasteries could count on the police protection from marauding Muslim zealots and thieves looking for valuable icons.
When civil order vanished from Egypt a few weeks ago, the Copts appealed to the army for protection. They were told that the military could not protect them, that they must protect themselves. And so they did, building protective fences around the monastery.
Unfortunately, it seems the army prefers that the monasteries remain unprotected: on Sunday soldiers with bulldozers arrived and began destroying the fences. Any Copts who attempted to interfere are being shot at by troops.
Here’s the latest from AINA
Egyptian Armed Forces Fire at Christian Monasteries, 19 Injured
by Mary Abdelmassih
(AINA) — For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army’s use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday’s army attack..
Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.
“When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen,” said Monk Ava Bishoy. “Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest.”
The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.
Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. “The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying ‘Lord have mercy’ without running away. This is what really upset them,” he said. “As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Victory, Victory’”.
He also added that the army prevented the monastery’s car from taking the injured to hospital.
The army also attacked the Monastery of St. Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, 100 km from Cairo. It stormed the monastery and fired live ammunition on the monks. Father Mina said that one monk was shot and more than ten have injuries caused by being beaten with batons. The army demolished the newly erected fence and one room from the actual monastery and confiscated building materials. The monastery had also built a fence to protect itself after January 25 and after being attacked by armed Arabs and robbers leading to the injury of six monks, including one monk in critical condition who is still hospitalized.
The army had given on February 21 an ultimatum to this monastery that if the fence was not demolished within 48 hours by the monks, the army would remove it themselves (AINA 2-23-2011).
The Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that any attack took place on St. Bishoy Monastery in Wady el-Natroun, “Reflecting our belief in the freedom and chastity of places of worship of all Egyptians.” The statement went on to say that the army just demolished some fences built on State property and that it has no intention of demolishing the monastery itself (video of army shooting at Monastery).
Father Hedra Ava Bishoy said they are in possession of whole carton of empty bullet shells besides the people who are presently in hospital to prove otherwise.
The army attack came after the monks built a fence for their protection after the police guards left their posts and fled post the January 25th Uprising and after being attacked by prisoners who were at large, having escaped from their prisons during that period.
“We contacted state security and they said there was no police available for protection,” said Father Bemwa,” So we called the Egyptian TV dozens of times to appeal for help and then we were put in touch with the military personnel who told us to protect ourselves until they reach us.” He added that the monks have built a low fence on the borders of one side of the monastery which is vulnerable to attacks, on land which belongs to the monastery, with the monks and monastery laborers keeping watch over it 24 hours a day.
The monks of St. Bishoy are now holding a sit-in in front of monastery in protest against the abuse of the army by using live bullets against civilians
Nearly 7000 Copts staged a peaceful rally in front of the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, where Pope Shenouda III was giving his weekly lecture (video), after which they marched towards Tahrir Square to protest the armed forces attacks on Coptic monasteries.
The army’s claim that no demolitions took place is belied by several videos that were taken by Copts on the scene, including the one below. Many thanks to Mohamed the Atheist for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling. The video and a transcript are below the jump:
|0:17||Oh god, oh god|
|0:42||Oh Jesus, oh god|
|0:54||Don’t throw rocks!|
|0:56||Don’t throw rocks!|
|1:04||They are firing live ammunition, right?|
|1:07||This is live ammunition.|
|2:04||They’ve destroyed it. God is going to make you pay..|
|2:07||They’ve destroyed it|
|2:11||They’ve destroyed it|
|2:21||They’ve destroyed it|
|2:36||Sons of bitches!|
|2:42||Watch out, boy!|
|2:53||Call for help!|
|2:55||Call for help, quickly!|
|3:20||They destroyed the wall, father!|
|3:32||Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!|
|3:45||What are we going to do then, father?|
|3:52||He was shot, they shot him.|
|3:57||Bring the car.|