August 20, 2013

Christians are afraid to leave their homes in Egypt

A leading Egyptian bishop said that many 
Christians, especially in the worst affected 
area of Upper Egypt's Minya province, have
become too afraid to leave their homes, on
account of a 48-hour anti-Christian rampage 
orchestrated by supporters of ousted Presi-
dent Mohammed Morsi.

In speaking with the Catholic charity, Aid to 
the Church in Need (ACN), Coptic Catholic 
Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut called on 
Western governments to work with Egypt's 
new regime, in defeating extremists responsi-
ble for the wave of terrorism which targeted 
nearly 80 churches and other Coptic centers.

Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria 
described how he was saved by police who 
stopped  Islamists  from  setting fire to his 
Luxor home, during the wave of violence 
which has paralyzed the region’s Christian 
community, comprising its bishop, priests, 
sisters and the laity; even to the point of
preventing them from leaving their homes.
In describing how, since August 13, almost 
80 churches, convents, schools, clinics, and 
other centers were hit, Bishop William criti-
cized the West for neglecting to acknowledge 
the scale of unprovoked attacks on harmless
communities by Mr. Morsi’s supporters.
The bishop said, “The Western governments are speaking about human rights.
Yes, these groups have a right to demonstrate, but not with arms.  The Western 
governments do not see the reality of what is going on here.  A group of terror- 
ists have used arms against us.  [Western governments] should not be support-
ing this.

While speaking from Assiut, Bishop William added, “They [Muslim Brothers] 
think that the Christians were the cause of Morsi being ousted.  But Christians 
were not alone: there were 35 million who went on the streets against Morsi 
Christians are being punished. We have been scapegoated.”


He stressed that, in spite of repeated efforts, 
including those of Western governments to 
encourage the Muslim Brotherhood to en-
gage in dialogue, the Islamist movement  
responded with violence.  

His comments coincided a statement issued 
by  Alexandria's Coptic Catholic Patriarch, 
Ibrahim Sidrak, where within he said that
... “our free, strong and conscious support 
for all state institutions, particularly the 
Armed Forces and police, for all their 
efforts in protecting our homeland.”
Both he and Bishop William high lighted how many Muslims had stood shoulder-
to-shoulder with Christians in defending churches and other Coptic buildings from 
attack.  Bishop William said: “Our people are close to normal Muslims, moderate  
Muslims.  When the fundamentalists came for the Christians in [Assiut’s] Old 
Town, the Muslims sent them away using arms In other cities, Christians and
 Muslims came to protect churches and they stayed next to the churches all day.

He said that many Muslims shared the Christians’ view that there should be a clear 
separation between religion and the state.  Many bishops underlined how the attacks 
of last week came as a surprise.   Bishop William said, “We had expected some re-
sponse [from the Muslim Brothers], but not to this degree of brutality.”

In Luxor, Bishop Joannes Zakaria told ACN how an Islamic protest turned ugly,  
on the 16th of August, when extremists tried to break into the bishop’s house and 
set fire to it.  However, members of the armed forces intervened “and saved us, 
thanks be to God.”

He said that all the churches were now closed, adding, “I, the bishop, the priests, 
the Sisters and the people cannot move [about].   We keep staying in our homes 
to be saved from any kind of violence.”  The bishop said that both in Luxor and 
in outer villages, “some” churches and homes of Christians were set on fire and 
that some Christian-run shops were destroyed.  He added that in Dabbiah, a vil-
lage close to Luxor, five Christians and one Muslim had been killed.  All of the 
bishops appealed for prayers.

In a message to ACN, Bishop Zakaria said, “We are happy to be suffering and to be 
victims and to lose our churches and our homes and our livelihood to save Egypt 
for the Christians and the Muslims.  We need the prayer of everybody to solve our 
problems.  It is the future of our children that we are concerned about so that good 
Christians and Muslims can live alongside each other.”  
____________________________________________________________________

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