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Violence at Deir Abu-Fana

Attacking the peaceful

ICC Note

Reporters of Watani news agency went on fact finding mission to Deir Abu-Fana monastery in Egypt which was recently attacked by Muslims. In this article, reporters from Watani describe what they witnessed during their visit to the monastery.

By Nader Shukry – Tereza Kamal

January 20, 2008 Egypt (U.S Copts Association)-…

Heavy damages

On Wednesday 10 January Deir Abu-Fana was the target of an armed assault which resulted in the ruin of eight cells belonging to solitary hermits, and the Bibles, books and icons inside them burned. One hermit was injured.

Watani headed to the monastery to investigate the incident. Once there we had to leave our car since it was next to impossible to drive across the soft sand dunes. The monks and hermits had us board a small agricultural tractor they use to navigate the dunes, and took us to the sites of the assault to witness the damage ourselves. West of the monastery proper lay the hermits’ cells, each some one or two kilometres apart from the nearest one. The ride was no easy task, not with the strong winter wind blowing the fine sand straight onto one’s face and eyes. It was obvious the hermits had chosen to live frugal, harsh lives. “The essence of a hermit’s life is to be isolated from other humans,” the monk Father Kyrillos who chauffeured the tractor said.

The first cell we encountered was heavily damaged. Its domed roof was entirely destroyed, its walls damaged, its windows stolen, and the icons, pictures and books burnt. The second cell was an absolute ruin; it was flattened to the ground. The eight other cells attacked were no different than these two.

“Let’s have tea”

The monks and hermits were angry not only at the attack, which was the 13th they had been subject to in the past three years, but also—and especially so—at what they insisted was police complicity with the attackers. The attackers are a group of ‘Arabs’ as they are commonly called, who live in the desert and who appear to covet part of the monastery grounds. Their leader is one Samir Mohamed Hussein who goes by the name of Samir Abu-Luli and who, together with his son Abdullah, led a recent attack on the monastery on New Year Day and occupied a portion of the monastery’s land. “We directly reported the matter at Hur police station, Father Kyrillos said, and asked the police inspector Major??? Hisham Yehia to come over and inspect the situation. He came but did absolutely nothing. He did not register our complaint and, upon finding Abu-Luli and his son on our land, and upon Abu-Luli’s flagrant challenge of ‘I have attacked and will attack again’, simply smiled and invited him over for tea saying: ‘Come on, Abu-Samra (a fond nickname for Samir), let’s have a cup of tea’.”

Culprits free

“This time, the monk Father Mina said, more than 30 men with automatic weapons came on Wednesday morning from apparently nowhere, surrounded the monastery buildings, then fanned out to attack the hermits and their solitary cells. Fortunately, all the hermits but one, Father Maximos, had that day descended to the monastery so were not in their cells. Father Maximos ran down to the monastery to tell us of the attack. We tried to stop the attackers but they shot at us incessantly, wounding Father Makary, who was driving the tractor, in his hand, so we had to leave and again informed the police. The police only showed up in the evening, led by Major Yehia. Again he did nothing; no culprits were caught and no investigation conducted. Worse, the monks Makary and Bishoi were questioned for three full hours, and the monks You’annis, Bakhoumious, and Bishoi for another four hours the following day, as though they were the culprits not the victims.”

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Typical scenario

The lawyer Mamdouh Ramzy commented that as long as the Coptic file remains in the hands of the police and the security authorities, more violence and destruction will ensue. When attackers destroy and burn Coptic property, Mr Ramzy said, they know very well that these authorities will not take them to account nor penalise them. The scenario has become typical: Copts and their property are attacked, no offenders are caught or if any is caught they are released with no penalty. The Copts are then pressured into a cosmetic ‘reconciliation’ in which they are pushed to renounce their rights. This happened in Udeisat last February, in Ayaat last May, in Alexandria last June, and these are but a few examples.

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