Demolition, Arson, and Desecration of Coptic Churches in Egypt

For the last several days we’ve been running news feed stories about the destruction by a Muslim mob of Coptic churches in a town about 30 miles outside of Cairo. Today Christians took to the streets of Cairo to protest the demolition and desecration of their churches.

Here’s the report from AKI:

Egypt: Copts Continue Protests Against Church Burning

Cairo, 8 March (AKI) – Coptic demonstrators on Tuesday blocked a main road in central Cairo to protest the burning of a church south of the capital. The church was set ablaze by a group of Muslims on Saturday reportedly following a dispute between two families over the romance between their Muslim daughter and Christian son.

Eyewitnesses said thousands of protesters held a sit-in in front of the public radio and television buildings close to Tahrir Square, forcing passers-by and drivers to change their routes, according to Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm.

Protesters also parked cars in the middle of the road, while others lay on the ground to hinder traffic, according to witnesses. Security forces fired in the air to force passers-by to change direction after clashes took place.

Although sectarian clashes between Muslims and minority Christians ebbed in the wake of uprisings which led to the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February, sporadic incidents like the burning of a church and killing of a Coptic priest have raised fears that tensions are being reignited.

Thousands of Copts travelled to Cairo from several governorates on Monday to stage the open-ended sit-in in front of the TV building. The same day, Egypt’s ruling military council promised to rebuild the torched Helwan church in its original location, according to state TV.

Below the jump are two subtitled videos with an eyewitness account plus footage of the demolition of one of the churches. Many thanks to Mohamed the Atheist for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Audio report from an eyewitness:

Video of the destruction of the church:

There’s more at Vlad’s.

Transcript video 1:

00:12   …in the town of Saul, Atfih and the latest developments
00:15   we have Mr. Yosry from the town.
00:17   What happened…after they sat the church on fire…
00:21   and destroyed the relics and crosses
00:24   They extracted the remains of the martyrs and saints…
00:28   The remains that were inside the church?
00:31   What…?
00:33   The remains of the corpses inside the church?
00:35   Yes, about five corpses.
00:37   The remains of Saint George and Saint Menas and other saints…
00:42   They threw them in the streets and are stepping on them
00:44   and kicking them around like balls in the streets…playing with them…
00:48   and also sat [sound unclear] on fire… …
00:51   … army forces arrived.
00:54   But at the end they were only ten soldiers.
00:57   and these soldiers didn’t head to the church to defend it.
01:02   Yes, they are with the mayor of the town.
01:07   What’s the mayor’s name?
01:10   Yes, they are at the mayor’s home… and here…[sound unclear]
01:15   What’s the mayor’s name?
01:19   Mohammad Abdel-aleem Gaad
01:24   And here…here neither fire trucks nor army forces arrived
01:28   at the church yet to help.
01:30   They destroyed it…sat fire…throw the remains in the streets
01:34   and are kicking them around and stepping on them.
01:37   And we currently are on the rooftops of our houses waiting for help.
01:41   Because they are breaking into houses and are causing damages.
01:45   And they have weapons and we have nothing.
01:49   Okay, I have a question…
01:51   Father Balamon has left the town now following
01:54   the orders of the Archeparchy.
01:56   As for father Hosea, is he still with the Muslim?
02:00   Father Hosea is a new priest here… just came from upper Egypt
02:03   And he was lived inside the church till they find a place for him.
02:07   So he was there with the deacons when…[sound unclear]
02:11   Yes. I’m asking if he’s still with the Muslim person after
02:14   he managed to get out, or did he leave the town?
02:18   I don’t know…we are trapped on the rooftops,
02:22   looking and waiting… and can’t go outside.
02:25   We don’t know what’s going on…
02:27   Our source of information is our friends and relatives who
02:31   live near the church and we call them to know.
02:35   They witness what happens and tell us.
02:39   And they say, until now, no army forces arrived at the church
02:42   to protect it, and people mislead the soldiers and help that enter the town,
02:46   so they don’t get to the church.
02:49   And the fire trucks that arrived…
02:52   There are houses of Muslims near the church that caught fire
02:56   The fire trucks were allowed to extinguish the fires in these houses,
03:01   not the fire in the church… only their houses.
03:07   That’s all…
03:10   Okay, Mr. Yosry… We’ll be contacting you.

Transcript video 2:

00:00   Allahu akbar, allahu akbar. (Allah is greater).
00:04   There’s no god but Allah.
00:21   Allahu akbar! (Allah is greater).
00:50   Come on, sheikh Abdel-azeem. Come on men!
01:09   Abdel-azeem.
01:12   “A video of the demolition of the church”
01:16   People, we want to pray. Let’s pray.
01:21   Allahu akbar! (Allah is greater).
01:26   Let’s pray! Everywhere!
01:32   Pray everywhere!
01:44   Harder, men! Come on!
02:05   Come on, men!
02:10   Harder!
02:31   [Sound unclear]
02:48   Yes, like that! Again!
02:55   Come on, men!

Below are two earlier articles about the destruction of the churches. The first is from AINA:

Nearly 4000 Muslims Attack Christian Homes in Egypt, Torch Church

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A mob of nearly four thousand Muslims has attacked Coptic homes this evening in the village of Soul, Atfif in Helwan Governorate, 30 kilometers from Cairo, and torched the Church of St. Mina and St. George. There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of the Church pastor Father Yosha and three deacons who were at church; some say they died in the fire and some say they are being held captive by the Muslims inside the church.

Witnesses report the mob prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. The army, which has been stationed for the last two days in the village of Bromil, 7 kilometers from Soul, initially refused to go into Soul, according to the officer in charge. When the army finally sent three tanks to the village, Muslim elders sent them away, saying that everything was “in order now.”

A curfew has been imposed on the 12,000 Christians in the village.

This incident was triggered by a relationship between 40-year-old Copt Ashraf Iskander and a Muslim woman. Yesterday a “reconciliation” meeting was arranged between the relevant Coptic and Muslim families and together with the Muslim elders it was decided that Ashraf Iskander would have to leave the village because Muslims torched his house.

The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family’s honor, which led the woman’s brother to avenge the death of his father by killing the cousin. The village Muslims blamed the Christians.

The Muslim mob attacked the church, exploding 5-6 gas cylinders inside the church, pulled down the cross and the domes and burnt everything inside. Activist Ramy Kamel of Katibatibia Coptic advocacy called US-based Coptic Hope Sat TV and sent an SOS on behalf of the Copts in Soul village, as they are presently being attacked by the mob. He also said that no one is able to contact the priest and the deacons inside the burning church and there is no answer from their mobile phones.

Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub reported the mob has broken into Coptic homes and has called on Copts to leave the village. “Terrorized Copts have fled and some hid in homes of Muslim neighbors,” he added.

Witnesses said the mob chanted “Allahu Akbar” and vowed to conduct their morning prayers on the church plot after razing it.

And from Asia News:

Muslims Attack Coptic Community, A Priest and Three Deacons Missing

The attack occurred last night in Soul, a town some 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital. Twelve thousand Christians are placed under curfew, waiting for soldiers held back by fear. The violence was sparked by a relationship between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A priest and three deacons are missing following an attack last night by about 4,000 Muslims in the town of Soul (30 kilometres south of Cairo) against the local Coptic community. The mob attacked Christian homes and set fire to the Saints Mina and George Coptic Church, ostensibly because of a relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

Witnesses report the mob prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. Father Yosha, the priest of the small parish, and three deacons have been reported missing with different accounts of their fate. Some believe they died in the fire that devastated the church building. Others say they are still held by Muslims in one of the parish buildings.

When the Muslim mob attacked the church, they exploded five or six gas cylinders inside the church, desecrated the cross and pulled down the domes.

Soldiers stationed in the village of Bromil, seven kilometres from Soul, initially refused to go into Soul. When the army finally sent troops to the village, Muslim elders sent them away, saying that everything was “in order now.” A curfew was imposed on the 12,000 Christians of the town.

The incident was sparked by the involvement of a Coptic man, Ashraf Iskander, with a Muslim woman. The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family’s honour. This in turn led the woman’s brother to avenge the death of their father by killing the cousin. Muslims then blamed the murders on Christians.

Hat tips for articles: C. Cantoni and Mary Abdelmassih.

4 thoughts on “Demolition, Arson, and Desecration of Coptic Churches in Egypt

  1. Christians protest peacefully (more or less) when their place of worship is desecrated and destroyed. Muslims, under the same circumstances, would have violently rioted – as they have in the past. This from adherents to “the religion of peace”.

  2. A few weeks ago you had a “hit and run” poster say that all faiths are able to live peacefully under Islam. In fact, I do believe this poster said that other faiths prefered to live in an Islamic state because of the fair treatment they were given. This poster, I think, was from California, a far cry from Egypt. I wonder if he had ever been to Egypt and had ever seen the suffering of the Egyptian Copts…

    A few years ago I had a Scotts woman that was married to a Muslim ask me why Americans didn’t just have all Israelis move to Maryland? I kid you not… While I would be tremendously happy to have the nation of Israel move to the United States, blowing up absolutely everything they have built in the middle east before they leave. However,I actually don’t think this will solve the problem.
    The Coptic Christians should leave now. Theirs is a lost cause. They should apply for asylem en masse to the United States government and people like me will support their cause. There is nothing they can do in Egypt at this time other than be slaughtered.

  3. The desecration of saints is an absolute barbaric act! Why isn’t any of this mentioned? Why? I guess Things haven’t changed since the 8th century!

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