“The Copts, their lives and their churches are in danger.” It was the gist of an urgent message sent days ago to a governmental authority by Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations.
Gabriel had good reason to be alarmed. In the village of Merinab in the Aswan province, the 100-year-old St. George’s Church was being demolished and burned to the ground by thousands of angry Muslims. After setting fire to the church building, which had been in the process of renovation, the crowd proceeded to the depot where lumber for the construction was being stored and set fire to that, as well, while security forces that arrived on the scene stood idly by and watched. According to local reports, the mob also attacked a Christian-owned electrical goods store, a supermarket, and the homes of four Coptic families.
Sectarian tension in Egypt has been on the rise in recent months, and the conflict has continued to escalate in the Merinab region because of disagreements over St. George’s renovations. As the construction began, local Muslims objected to the presence of a cross, bell, and dome on the church’s roof. While church leaders eventually agreed to omit the spire and cross in the interest of community peace, however, the dome was never removed.
Amid threats that Muslims will burn other houses, many Christians in the village are now afraid to leave their homes.
Please pray for this perilous situation that is affecting our Christian brethren in Egypt. Pray that this conflict in Merinab will be resolved and that St. George’s Church will be rebuilt without incident, and pray that government officials will enforce strict action against anyone who obstructs church building projects. Most of all, please pray that these suffering Christians will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to endure this relentless persecution, and that their testimonies will point the way for others to accept the love of Christ in Egypt.
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