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Egyptian Armed Forces Demolish Fences Guarding Coptic Monasteries

ICC Note:

“Egyptian armed forces this week demolished fences surrounding ancient Coptic monasteries, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by armed Arabs, robbers and escaped prisoners, who have seized the opportunity of the state of diminished protection by the authorities in Egypt to carry out assaults and thefts,” Assyrian International News Agency reports.

By Mary Abdelmassih

2/23/2011 Egypt (AINA) – Egyptian armed forces this week demolished fences surrounding ancient Coptic monasteries, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by armed Arabs, robbers and escaped prisoners, who have seized the opportunity of the state of diminished protection by the authorities in Egypt to carry out assaults and thefts.

“Three monasteries have been attacked by outlaws and have asked for protection from the armed forces, but were told to defend themselves.” said activist Mark Ebeid. “When the terrified monks built fences to protect themselves, armed forces appeared only then with bulldozers to demolish the fences. It is worth noting that these monasteries are among the most ancient in Egypt, with valuable Coptic icons and manuscripts among others, which are of tremendous value to collectors.”

On Sunday February 20, armed forced stormed the 4th century old monastery of St. Boula in the Red Sea area, assaulted three monks and then demolished a small fence supporting a gate leading to the fenceless monastery. “The idea of the erection of the gate was prompted after being attacked at midnight on February 13 by five prisoners who broke out from their prisons,” said Father Botros Anba Boula, “and were armed with a pistol and batons. The monks ran after them but they fled to the surrounding mountains except for one who stumbled and was apprehended and held by the monks until the police picked him up three days later.”

Father Botros said after this incident they thought the best solution to secure the monastery was to erect a gate with a small fence of 40 meters long at the entrance of a long wiry road leading to the monastery, which would be guarded day and night by the monks, and advised the army of their plan. According to Father Boulos, the army came with armored vehicles to demolish the gate, but it was agreed the monastery itself would undertake the demolition of the gate in stages as army protection is reinstated. “We told the Colonel it would look ugly to the outside world if Egyptian army is demolishing a gate erected for the protection of the unarmed monks under the present absence of security forces. We gave them full hospitality but we had a feeling that they wanted to demolish the gate in a ‘devious’ way.”

In a related incident, Father Boulos, a monk at the Monastery of Abu Magar, also called St. Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, said that on February 21 armed forces stormed the monastery and wanted to demolish its fence and gate. He explained that after the security vacuum during the January uprising, the Monastery was attacked by thugs and Arabs armed with automatic weapons, leading to the injury of six monks, including one monk in critical condition who is still hospitalized.

“The perpetrators took advantage of the fact that the monastery is a nature reserve and has no fence for protection. After the incident we have built a fence around the monastery to protect it, but the environmental agency rejected it and sent for the security forces and the army to remove the fence.” He added that they were given 48 hours by the authorities to demolish the one-meter high fence, otherwise the army would be back to destroy it.

“If no authority is in a position to protect us,” said Father Boulos, “then let us do it ourselves, the way we see fit.”

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