International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Muslim mob looted and torched Christian property and homes in Al-Beida village, Egypt on June 17, after rumors spread of a Christian-owned building being turned into a local church. More than 80 Christian families were affected by the attack last Friday, leaving hundreds afraid and without a place to conduct their Christian worship.
“On Friday afternoon, following Friday noon prayer, a great deal of fanatic Muslims gathered in the front of the new house of my cousin, Naim Aziz, during its construction because of a rumor spread in the village that this building would be turned into a church,” explained Christian resident, Mousa Zarif. “They were chanting slogans against us. Among these slogans were. ‘By no means shall there be a church here.’”
Christian residents of Al-Beida do not have a local church. In fact, they are forced to worship at the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church which is seven kilometers away. The presumed church construction of Naim Aziz’s property was actually the construction of Aziz’s personal home.
The angry mob attacked the building and destroyed all of the construction materials. They then attacked Naim and his brother, Mousa, leaving both men injured. After this, the mob turned their wrath on the Christian homes adjacent to the building, hurling rocks, looting houses and setting fire to any Christian property in their wake. The damages are estimated to be around 500,000 Egyptian pounds.
“They also intercepted the car of Fr. Karas Naser, the priest of Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael Coptic Church when he arrived at the village,” Zarif continued. “They attacked him but some moderate Muslims intervened, rescuing him from their hands and getting him out of the car.”
When police arrived on the scene they were unable to protect the Christians from the ongoing assaults. The Muslim mob continued to set homes and cars on fire in the presence of the police, unabated. The mob terrorized residents by gathering outside of Christian doors to perform their afternoon prayers on loudspeakers aimed at the houses, all in the presence of the security forces.
In the end, police arrested six Muslim men, all of whom were released by that evening, and six Christian men, who were released on bail the following day. The police station in Amirya charged the Christian men with erecting a building without permit and holding prayers without permission.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We are heartbroken and frustrated for the Christian community in Al-Beida and the terror they have endured. The police and government authorities in Egypt cannot allow these attacks to go unpunished because the victims come from a minority faith. It is unspeakable that the victims of these attacks were charged with crimes while the perpetrators continue to enjoy total impunity. It continues to show how Christians in Egypt are treated like second class citizens. We call on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that justice is served and that Christian communities like this be protected from further assault in Egypt.”