Egyptian Muslims Attack Copts

Thursday, October 6, 2011

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- Mobs of Muslims torched a church in Upper Egypt and then looted and burned nearby Coptic homes and businesses.

Three thousand Salafis gutted the Mar Gerges Church in the Elmarenab village of Aswan, then looted and razed nearby Christian homes and businesses.

Michael Ramzy, a villager in Elmarenab, said the attacks started after Muslims held afternoon prayer.

"Imams in more than 20 mosques called for crowds to gather and destroy the church and demolish the houses of the Copts and loot their properties," Ramzy said.

The troubles in Elmarenab began in August when Muslims became angry at renovations to the Mar Gerges church that visibly identified it as a Christian structure from the outside. After Muslims stopped the renovations by blockading the building, a "reconciliation meeting" resulted in the removal of all crosses and bells visible from the outside, but then the Muslims demanded the removal of newly constructed domes that helped support the structure.

Muslims claimed that all the renovations were illegal because the building was actually a hospital despite the fact that the original structure had existed on site as a church for almost a century; the parish received permission by the Aswan governor to renovate it in 2010.

The destruction of Mar Gerges is the third church in Egypt in seven months to be destroyed by a Muslim mob; other churches have been looted or attacked, including a New Year's Eve bombing at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria that left 23 dead and many more wounded.

The attacks are part a pattern in which Egyptian government officials grant permission for a church to be reopened, then local Muslims threaten violence if this actually takes place. Coptic leaders accuse the government of collusion by not enforcing a recently expanded Emergency Law that calls for imprisonment for acts of sectarian strife resulting in vandalism of private property.