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10/31/17 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that last week, on October 27, a Muslim mob formed in Ezbat Zakaria village following noon prayer, attacking both St. George’s (Mar Girgis) Church and other buildings owned by Christians. A Coptic woman suffered minor injuries during the attacks. There are approximately 1,800 Christians in Ezbat Zakaria, all of whom attend St. George’s. Security officials responded to the incident by closing the church.

Sobhi, a Christian resident in Ezbat Zakaria, told ICC, “On Friday morning, we were surprised when we found flyers placed on three streets leading to the village mosque under the title, ‘We opened the church in spite of you.’ The leaflets were made to appear as though written by us (the Coptic villagers), but none of us did that. They created this ploy to attack and incite the others to attack us and the building. It was an attempt to provoke sedition and find justification for the attack on the church.”

He added, “Following the Friday prayer, many Muslims gathered into a mob and began to attack us. They threw stones at our homes resulting in breaking the doors and windows of some houses, injuring a Coptic woman… they set three stables owned by Copts on fire. They then headed to the church (the building services) and tried to attack it but the security guards who were assigned confronted them and prevented them from approaching the church.”

While security services quickly deployed across the street and regained control of the situation, their decision to close the church has further frustrated local Christian residents.

One Christian eyewitness to the violence said, “What did we Copts do to be attacked, our church closed, and Christians prevented from praying in it? We are very peaceful and we have not made any trouble with them. Is this because we are Christians? They do not want us to have a place to pray in. Their aim was to close our church. They consider us Kaffir and they say no to places for Kaffir to pray in our village. While they were throwing the stones at our homes last Friday they were shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar……Allahu Akbar, we don’t want a church in our Islamic village.’”

The authorities have arrested 15 villagers pending an investigation into the violence. Closing St. George’s Church has prevented the village’s 1,800 Christian residents from having access to facilities where they can practice their faith.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Once again, Christians in Egypt are suffering for no other reason than their faith. As this event illustrates, Egypt’s Christians are not safe whether they are at home or at church. Closing the church does nothing to protect Christians. In fact, the mob wanted to close the church and deny the Christians the ability to exercise their right to religious practice. The authorities should quickly reopen St. George’s, properly investigate this crime, and hold those who participated accountable for their actions. Authorities should not tolerate this kind of violence and should make more of an effort to protect Christians from the violence of extremists.”