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Christian churches, homes set on fire in Egyptian riots

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A day of clashes between the Egyptian army and supporters of Egypt's former Muslim Brotherhood-linked president Mohammed Morsi have left hundreds dead and thousands injured. The government and military forces are struggling to regain calm and order in the worst sectarian violence in the African nation's history.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Cairo has called upon Morsi supporters  to "listen to the voice of reason" and halt the violence. Officials have also declared a one-month state of emergency and imposed a curfew  in major cities.

Even more alarming is pro-Morsi supporters that have launched attacks against Christians and Christian buildings across Egypt. Pro-Morsi elements have been turning up the heat against the nation's minority Christian Copts for weeks. According to reports, protestors threw firebombs as the Mar Gergiss church in Sohag, a city with a strong Coptic Christian community.

Attackers also set fire to a Christian youth center in Fayoum. A 4th century church, one of the oldest in Egypt was reportedly destroyed. Scores of other churches and Copt homes were attacked.

A Copt activist told one journalist that over 21 churches were completely burned to the ground, and more were attacked. There are no confirmed numbers regarding deaths or injuries. Coptic officials responded by calling for  national unity in the face of violent opposition.

One Coptic church that escaped tumult was the Abu Seifein church in the wealthy Cairo district of Mohandeseen, there was little sign of any damage. A short walk away from Al-Gamat Al-Dowal Street, the site of heavy clashes the day before, the church escaped unscathed.

Mina Thabet, an activist with Christian rights group the Maspero Youth Union, told Al Jazeera on Friday that at least 32 churches had been "completely destroyed, burned or looted" in eight different locations over the previous two days. The group also recorded dozens of other attacks on Christian-owned shops, businesses and schools around the country.

The Anglican church of St Savior's in the city of Suez was one of those attacked this week. "They attacked the church with Molotov cocktails and stones, and the car of the priest was completely destroyed," Egypt's Anglican Bishop Mouneer Annis says. "Two other churches in Suez were completely burned - and the thugs looted the churches afterwards. It's a mixture between burning and looting."

"It never happened before in history that such a big number of churches were attacked on one day," Bishop Thomas, a Coptic Orthodox bishop in Assiut says. "We normally used to have attacks once a month or so."

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