Christians Fear Another “Day of Burning” in Egypt
By Todd Daniels
8/30/2013 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Christians across Egypt are fearfully waiting to see if the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) will follow through on its threats that Friday, August 30, will be a “day of burning” in Egypt.
“They have vowed—again—to ‘burn Egypt’, a vow they took several times before and which they implemented with a vengeance,” writes Adel Mounir at Watani.
Supporters are set to stage so-called “anti-coup” demonstrations in an effort to “reclaim the revolution,” Ahram reports. With crowds expected to be larger, there is a fear that it may again turn violent. Security remains in a heightened state of alert, with a curfew being imposed. Over the past few days, numerous arrests have been made of people believed to be responsible for inciting violence, in an attempt to minimize the violence that gripped the country in the past weeks.
One of the most deadly string of attacks started on August 14 when the Egyptian security forces broke up two protest camps – one in Nahda Square and one near Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque – in Cairo. The aftermath of these operations set Egypt aflame and resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people, more than 50 churches attacked, and hundreds of Christian-owned properties attacked. It was what the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights called an “unprecedented spike in scale of sectarian violence and reprisals against Copts.”
The Rabba camp– which means “four” or “fourth” in Arabic – has become a symbol of Islamist protest. A four-finger salute “has quickly become the new symbol of those supporting deposed Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Radio Free Europe reports.
For Christians, however, it has become a symbol that evokes fear and a sign of coming violence. “The supporter of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi put the signs of Rabba, four fingers, on the top of the doors of the Christian homes and shops in Minya, as a prelude to attack them this Friday, August 30,” an ICC contact wrote from Cairo.
The violence of the past weeks – and the threat of coming violence – has created a spirit of fear among Christians. Sameh Hanen, a Christian shop owner in Assiut, told ICC, “Many Christian shops and homes were ransacked and destroyed; more than four churches were looted and burnt by MB. And up till now we are very afraid from any another attack.”
“The sales of my shop are decreased in my shop nowadays because of these bad current events,” he continued. “I open my shop for some few hours daily, but because of this bad situation I close my shop very early at 6 pm and come back to my home to stay with my family to protect them because they also are very afraid to stay alone at the evening.”
Hanen’s situation is mildly better than that of Sameh Lofty, a jewelry store owner in Luxor. His shop has been closed since August 14, he told ICC. He is very afraid of any MB or Muslim thugs attacks on his shop. He said, “The Christians in Luxor are suffering daily bad incidents like taking a car of a Christian person at gunpoint or stealing content of any Christian’s shop.
“Life is hard for all of us here and there isn’t any protection for us,” he added.
The lack of protection from security forces has led to a sense of impunity among supporters of Morsi. There have been numerous cases of kidnapping or threats made demanding extortion money.
On August 23, ICC reported the kidnapping of Waheed Naim, in Upper Egypt. He was being held for a ransom of 500,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. 71,000 dollars). On August 29, ICC learned that he was killed by the kidnappers as his family was unable to pay the ransom, according to friends of the family. Waheed was a deacon in his church. A prayer service was held for Waheed in the church of Mar Youhana,, in Al Quesseyya.
The violence has come not only from those with specific ties to the Muslim Brotherhood but also from other Muslims who have been incited against Christians by the MB. Younan Ezer, a lawyer from Minya, told ICC, “Many supporters of the deposed president Morsi in all the cities of Minya incited the simple Muslims against Christians here.”
Ezer continued, “They said to them that what happened, toppling the President Mohamed Morsi and ending the Rabba sit-in, is considered a defeat to Islam and Islamic project and also this is considered a victory of Christianity against the Islam. So the MB have incited many Muslims to attack Christians.”
The attacks on churches and the security concerns have led church leaders to take precaution about creating targets for attacks. In Delga, a church cancelled their services for the first time in 1,600 years, according to a Fox News report. The Coptic Pope Tawadros II has canceled his weekly meetings because he is concerned about the risk of potential attacks on the Coptic congregation, BBC reported even prior to the August 14th events.
Ezer, himself a father of two, told ICC, “Last Sunday we canceled going to the Church to attend the Sunday’s mass because my children were very afraid. They said to me that the bad people would break into the church, burn it and kill us.”
He added, “My children are living in panic and horror, when they hear a loud sound in the street they cry and say that the bad people are coming to kill us now.”
Unfortunately, this kind of fear has gripped Christians all across Egypt and as the past few weeks have demonstrated, it is justified.
There is a need for leaders who, rather than inciting violence, will decry it. There is a need for the international community to continue to speak out for the protections of all Egyptians and the security of the country.