By Joey Millar – The Express UK (via AINA) –
The coordinated attacks took place in the Egyptian region of Minya, south of Cairo, where church leaders are now pleading for support.
After keeping quiet for two weeks to help officials carry out investigations, Coptic Orthodox leaders have now spoken out and accused Egypt of treating Christian prayers “as a crime”.
They said they were forced to close four churches after furious locals launched vicious attacks on worshippers, emboldened by a lack of police support.
Terrified church leaders were forced to close one church for the safety of their congregations – something which then encouraged mobs to attack three others.
And authorities are doing nothing to bring those responsible to justice, the Coptic Orthodox leader in Minya said.
Anba Macarius said: “We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state.
“However, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for. The Coptic Christians go to the neighbouring villages to perform their prayers.”
He said the initial closure of the Church of al-Azraa sparked three more incidents in nearby places of worship: at the church of Anba Mousa, the church of Abu Sayfen and the church of Mar Gerges.
Now Christians in the region were facing a level of oppression not seen for year, Mr Makarios said.
He said: “What happened within two weeks, hasn’t happen over years. Churches are closed, the Coptic Christians are being attacked and their property destroyed, and there is no deterrent.
“The Copts always pay the price of this coexistence, not the aggressors.
“The reactions of officials are disappointing, and when there is any dispute or an attack, the first alternative is to close the church and put pressure only on the Copts with impunity for the aggressors.”
Attacks on Christians in Egypt regularly worsen as festivals approach, with this year’s Easter celebrations subdued in an attempt to avoid an onslaught.
Last year Christians in the region told Express.co.uk they were afraid for their lives as the holy day approached.
One, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Christians are considered as infidels, following a corrupt faith, reading a corrupt bible.
“A second aspect to consider is that much of the population is either illiterate or very poorly educated.
“They will blindly follow teaching of those who uphold the conception that Christians are infidels.”
Photo Credit: Joy Digital