Date: February 19, 2013
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- Egyptian Christians and rights activists expressed frustration Tuesday, February 19, about spreading anti-Christian violence in Egypt after another Coptic church was destroyed by a Muslim mob in an attack that slightly injured several believers.
Witnesses said hundreds of Muslims threw stones and set fire to the St. Georgas Coptic Church in the village of Sarsena, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of the capital Cairo.
A few parishioners and the pastor were slightly injured, before a local Muslim family helped them to escape the scene, local Christians said.
It cams as a major setback for those attending regular worship services in St. Georgas Coptic Church, which was built about 20 years ago and ministered to about 200 families.
Friday's attack was reportedly led by a local Muslim group, which claimed the church was "illegal" and should be demolished because of its close location to a largely Muslim neighborhood.
Rafic Greiche, a spokesperson for the Greek Melkite Church in Egypt, said in an interview that the simple church, made of wood and brick, was nearly completely destroyed.
Over the weekend, Christians rallied in Cairo to demand the attackers be tried in a civilian court and not pardoned
at one of several 'reconciliation' meetings, a traditional form of "conflict resolution" arranged by Egyptian authorities to ease tensions between Muslims and Christians.
The sessions are often held to bypass the judicial system and victims are at times compelled to abandon their claims to a legal remedy, said International Christian Concern (ICC), an independent advocacy group.
"The rights of Christians, which are now practically nonexistent in Egypt, are all but taken from them at compulsory 'reconciliation' meetings," explained Aidan Clay, ICC's regional manager for the Middle East.
He said the meeting "by their very nature, are used to excuse those responsible for attacks and shift the blame onto victims," contributing, "to Egypt's climate of impunity" and encouraging further assaults.
"We call on Egyptian officials to investigate the attack...and arrest those responsible. No one should be withheld the protection granted by law simply because they are a member of a minority religious community," he told BosNewsLife in a statement.
Last week's violence was the second attack against Coptic Christians in Fayoum Province since mid-January.
On January 15, hundreds of Muslims were seen storming a community center in Fanous village that was being constructed by a Coptic Christian charity.
The charity was reportedly accused by a local Muslim cleric of building a church, despite having legal permits to construct the facility.
However Greiche, a priest, said attacks against Christians in Egypt have become more frequent – about one per week –
since the country’s 2011 revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
He told Vatican Radio that Christians now face what he called "systematic persecution" since the beginning of Egypt's revolution, which was part of Middle East and North African protests that became known as the 'Arab Spring'. “The Christians don’t feel secure at all – especially now. We have a lack of security, and the people are demoralized,” the priest said.
Greige warned that many Christians are emigrating from the region, which he claimed is problematic. "The people who are emigrating are the people who have money and are the most educated," he explained.