Church anger after 25 dead and more than 200 injured in Cairo
By John Pontifex
THE Catholic Church in Egypt has implicated the regime in the deaths of 25 people â€“ most of them Copts â€“ in the worst spate of violence since the downfall of Mubarak.
The Church claimed that the army and police â€œusedâ€ a mob of street fighters armed with rifles, sticks, stones and swords who it says carried out an unprovoked attack on thousands of demonstrators in Cairo late yesterday (Sunday, 9th October).
The protesters, made up of Muslims as well as Christians, marched to Egyptâ€™s state television headquarters, calling for greater action to protect Christians in Egypt after a spate of attacks against them.
In yesterdayâ€™s violence, in central Cairo, 25 people were killed â€“ 17 of them Coptic Christians â€“ and more than 200 others were injured.
In a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Rafic Greiche, official spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, said: â€œWe are accusing the army and the police who used vagabonds, a rabble force of street fighters, to attack the demonstrators.â€
â€œThey were armed with swords, sticks and stones â€“ some of them had rifles it seems.â€
â€œThey did not have to use force. It was a peaceful demonstration.â€
Fr Greiche described the â€œanger and hurtâ€ after the deaths of the 25 â€“ most of them in their 20s and 30s.
â€œToday [Monday], people are very angry about what happened last night. The army and the police are confronting the Copts. This is the problem. It is not a Christian/Muslim problem any more.â€
He said that under Mubarak it was easier to demonstrate but the new regime under Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was opposed to such forms of freedom of speech.
â€œPeople â€“ not just Christians but many Muslims too â€“ are frightened for the future of our country.â€
Fr Greiche went on to accuse the government of being complicit in arson attacks on churches, giving tacit approval to Islamists to carry out the attacks.
Sparking yesterdayâ€™s violence was alleged government inaction following last monthâ€™s arson attack on a re-built church in Marinab, a village in southern Egyptâ€™s Aswan province.
Demonstrators called for the removal of the governor of Aswan who they claim gave permission for the construction work before siding with extremists against the church.
Fr Greiche said: â€œThe governor gave the green light for the fundamentalists to burn the church near Aswan.
â€œItâ€™s the fourth time in recent months that a church has been burnt in this way by Islamists.â€
He added that the Church was calling for the governor of Aswan to be dismissed and that a law be passed making it easier for churches to be built.
He said that since the fall of Mubarak in February, Islamists across Egypt formerly repressed by the president, were now very active, causing great anxiety to many Muslims as well as Christians.
Fr Greiche said: â€œSince the fall of Mubarak, the fundamentalists have developed a very loud voice. The government leaves them to do whatever they want.â€
He accused fundamentalists of using Facebook and other social media to call for Christians to emigrate to the West, saying Islamists were determined to implement Islamic Shariâ€˜a law.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity â€“ helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Needâ€™s Childâ€™s Bible â€“ God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACNâ€™s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
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For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.