What future for Christians in Egypt after brutal assault by security forces, Islamists and thugs?
At least 25 dead and hundreds injured as Christian protestors attackedThousands of Christians protesting against the torching of a church and other injustices came under brutal attack by security forces, Islamists and violent thugs in Egypt on Sunday.
Video footage shows military vehicles charging at Christians who were protesting near the state TV building in Maspero Square, Cairo.
One of the rally organisers said:
The army and police were waiting for us about 200 metres away from the Maspero TV building. They started firing at us before two army armoured vehicles came at great speed and drove into the crowds, going backwards and forwards, mowing people under their wheels.Eyewitnesses reported seeing an armoured vehicle crush 15 people.
The Christian hospital where many of the wounded were being treated came under sustained attack by a group of men chanting “Islamiya, Islamiya”, and Christian-owned businesses were targeted by thugs.
The Health Ministry has said that 25 people were killed and 329 wounded, though other Egyptian sources put the death toll higher.
Although Muslims were among the aggressors, some were also reportedly present to defend the Christians from the security forces and to protest against the military’s continued hold on power. Calls were made for the resignation of the military council.
Christians flee violenceThe protest was sparked by the destruction of St George’s Church in Aswan province on 30 September. This was the latest in a long line of violent attacks on Christians in Egypt, which have intensified since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak as hard-line Islamist groups, notably the Salafists, have grown in strength and influence. Christians feel that the military council is not doing enough to protect them and are too lenient on the perpetrators of anti-Christian attacks.
The violence is driving thousands of Christians out of the country. A report by the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organisations (EUHRO) said that 100,000 Christians had emigrated from Egypt since March. Director Naguib Gabriel said that the Christians were not leaving voluntarily but were being forced out by the aggressive tactics of hard-line Salafist Muslims.
And as the country moves towards parliamentary elections at the end of November, it seems increasingly likely that Islamist groups will emerge triumphant, making the future for Christians in Egypt look ever more dangerous.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
Christians in Egypt have endured decades of discrimination and persecution, but the brutality unleashed against them on Sunday reveals new depths of hostility towards them. It is not surprising that those who can are now leaving the country, but what will happen to those who remain? Are they going to be forced out or subjected to even worse state-sponsored violence?
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