International Orthodox Christian News

CSW calls for official investigation into Cairo Church riot

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling for an official investigation into a recent attack on a Coptic church building in the East Cairo district of Ain Shams that later flared into mass rioting on the streets.

The Coptic Church of St Mary and Anba Abraam was attacked on Sunday by a mob of thousands, who began by protesting outside the church’s newly constructed extension building.

The protest soon degenerated into a riot that lasted until 4am the following morning. The crowd initially threw stones at the new church building, and as the violence escalated, bottles and gas canisters were launched at church, despite the presence of Christians inside the building.

Several people were wounded and the glass front of the St Mary and Anba Abraam church building was completely destroyed in the attack. Video footage of the event shows protestors setting banners alight while chanting Islamic slogans. The violence ended after police reinforcements arrived to disperse the crowd.

The church building was initially purchased in October 2003, and had been converted from a textiles factory to provide a range of services to the Christian community. After the church gained government permission to practise religious rites on the third floor of the building in May 2008, the first mass was held on 23 November. However the Sheikh of a nearby mosque that was still under construction unexpectedly announced its official opening on the same evening, and called for a large-scale protest.

A church member asked, “Why? Why are they doing this? We are not opening a nightclub, but a place of prayer. Are we regressing or progressing as a society? We funded this building ourselves, we’re not asking for anything, but to be allowed to pray in a privately owned building that we’ve funded ourselves.”

Police are reported to have questioned up to 60 rioters. However, eight people who were arrested have since been released, three of whom were Christians.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Alexa Papdouris said: “We are deeply shocked by the scale of the violence in Cairo, especially since the building under attack had already been officially approved by the state authorities.

“We call on the Egyptian government to bring to justice the instigators and perpetrators of the violence, and to prevent attacks on churches in the future by providing equitable laws governing the construction of places of worship.

“Given the frequency of anti-Christian violence in Egypt over the past year, we also call on the Egyptian authorities to urgently recognise the desperate need for greater protection of vulnerable Christian communities.”


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