Coptic Christians Without Church for Easter Following Mob Attack
Children Traumatized and Three Injured in Attack on Egyptian Church
04/16/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on April 12, 2019, a mob of extremists attacked the Church of Society of Anba Karassof in Khalaf Allah Jaber village, located in Egypt’s Sohag Governorate. As a result, the church was damaged, three people were injured, Christian children attending Sunday School were traumatized, and the church was closed to avoid further violence.
The mob, armed with knives and sticks, attacked the church at 4:00 p.m. on April 12 as Christian children were attending Sunday School classes. According to local reports, a large iron gate delayed the mob in their assault which allowed local police to arrive and disperse the crowd.
However, the mob was still able to inflict damage on the church and injure several Christians, including two priests, Father Basil and Father Pachomius, and one Coptic man, Asaad Bakhit Rizk Allah. Following the attack, local police closed down the church in order to avoid further violence.
Though there were limited injuries, one local Christian woman said, “The hardest emotion in that incident is the kids lived the incident in the reality. They saw the extremists attacking the church and how they injured the priests. This incident will hurt them psychologically in the future.”
A day prior to the attack, the village mayor confiscated building materials from the church and attempted to close down the church. According to local reports, the mayor became frustrated with the local church because the Coptic Christians were renovating their church building in an attempt to accommodate their growing congregation of nearly 1,300 Christians.
Though the church had applied for legal status in September 2017, it has yet to receive official authorization.
Commenting on the political environment surrounding the attack, one local said, “The motivation of this incident [is] the constitution amendments. Many Christians will accept it, while other Muslim [extremists] hate the continuation of Sisi’s presidency. The Christians are always the victims of this regime.”
To date, the Church of Society of Anba Karassof remains closed to avoid additional violence. This is despite the fact that the Coptic congregation is commemorating Holy Week and preparing for Easter. With no other local church in the area, the congregation is likely to be left without a formal worship space this Easter.
ICC’s Regional Manager, Claire Evans, said, “Egypt’s Christians are often singled out during the celebration of Christian holidays, such as Easter. President al-Sisi has taken symbolic steps of support for the Coptic population. Now he must take action to protect the rights of Christians to worship in their churches. More must be done to protect Christians from both discrimination and violence.”
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