Fire destroys Catholic church in Egypt

107009083_46b51234671.jpgCairo, Jun 18, 2008 / 05:09 pm (CNA).- Fire destroyed a Coptic Catholic church in the Egyptian town of Kafr el Sheij this week, coming just three weeks after another church was burned in the country because of conflicts between Christians and Muslims.

The Catholic bishops in Egypt have called on the government to provide greater security for Christians. According to the newspaper Al Ahram, the blaze required emergency response from eight fire trucks in order to put it out.

The latest fire came a few weeks after conflicts between Christians and Muslims, including an attack on a Christian-run jewelry store, which resulted in the death of the owner and the wounding of four others.

The Vatican daily “L’Osservatore Romano” said Muslim groups accuse the Catholic Church in Egypt of seeking “to form a parallel state with the help of foreign subjects” in order “to change the Muslim-Arab nature of the nation.”

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Youseff Ibrahim Sarraf of Cairo said there was no religious motivation behind the violence against Coptic Christians but rather, that the violence was the result of “ordinary criminal activity.”

Even though Muslims extremists have been reportedly increasing their influence in Egypt in recent years, Bishop Sarraf called relations between Christians and Muslims “cordial” and said the government is trying to keep extremists from entering the country and fostering “dangerous internal conflicts.” “We must also be vigilant,” he added.

Coptic Catholics make up between 6 and 10% of the Egyptian population, which numbers 80 million.