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August 15, 2013 11:05 am

Concern for Coptic Christians Grows Amid Violence in Egypt

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A burning church in Egypt. Photo: IPT News.

JNS.org Concern for Egypt’s beleaguered Coptic Christian community grew on Wednesday amid the country’s bloodiest day since the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution in early 2011.

According to the Egyptian Health Ministry, more than 500 people were killed during military raids of protest camps staged by the Muslim Brotherhood. The protesters supported the restoration of Mohamed Morsi as president.

Egyptian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said that pro-Morsi protesters built fortifications and fired at police, BBC reported. Ibrahim also said armed gangs had infiltrated the protest sites.

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“I regret the killing and bloodshed of even one single human being but I don’t see any other options for the Egyptian security forces,” said Halim Meawad, co-founder of Coptic Solidarity, a U.S.-based international Coptic Christian human rights organization.

“The Brotherhood does not mind the killing of a few hundreds or thousands so it can cry wolf and play the role of the victim,” Meawad added.

According to reports, pro-Morsi supporters torched three Coptic churches in central Egypt on Wednesday. Assailants threw firebombs at Mar Gergiss Church in Sohag, AFP reported.

The Coptic Church backed the removal of Morsi from power. Coptic Pope Tawadros II appeared alongside Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the announcement of Morsi’s removal on July 3.

Egypt’s Coptic leaders condemned the attacks on their churches and praised the police and military.

“We strongly condemn terrorism goal in the brutal attacks on individuals, churches and public buildings, and appreciate the role of the great efforts of the police and the army in maintaining the security of the country, and attribute the people of the deceased are all sons of Egypt, and we pray for the peace of our country, the great Egypt, and security,” Rev. Dr. Bishoy Helmy, Secretary General of the Council of Churches of Egypt said in a statement, Watani, a Coptic Christian paper, reported.

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) expressed concern for Egypt Coptic Christians amid the ongoing violence.

“Organized violence against Egypt’s Copts, the murder of innocents and destruction of churches, is outrageous and unforgivable,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC’s director of government and international affairs, who last visited Egypt in April.

“Lost in much of the reporting on the polarization and violence in Egypt is the apparent targeting of Copts and their institutions by followers of Mohamed Morsi, the ousted president,” Isaacson said in a statement. “In the absence of Muslim Brotherhood restraint on these elements, it is imperative that Egyptian authorities step up efforts to ensure the safety of the Christian Coptic community.”

Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, wrote that the attacks on Coptic churches “should remind the West that the stakes in the conflict in Egypt are high.”

“If the U.S. seeks to cripple the [Egyptian] military, they won’t be helping the cause of democracy,” Tobin wrote. “The [Muslim] Brotherhood may have used a seemingly democratic process to take power in 2012, but they would never have peacefully relinquished it or allowed their opponents to stop them from imposing their will on every aspect of Egyptian society. As difficult as it may be for some high-minded Americans to understand, in this case it is the military and not the protesters in Cairo who are seeking to stop tyranny. Though the military is an unattractive ally, anyone seeking to cut off vital U.S. aid to Egypt should remember that the only alternative to it is the party that is currently burning churches.”

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