Egyptian Christians Unite to Protest and Pray After Muslim Mob Kills Christian Man, Burn Down Church Buildings

( [email protected] ) Jul 18, 2016 12:14 PM EDT
Coptic Christians in central Egypt united to protest and pray on Monday after a Muslim mob attacked priests with knives and batons over a personal feud, leaving one person dead.
Relatives of the Christians worship at the main Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Coptic Christians in central Egypt united to protest and pray on Monday after a Muslim mob attacked priests with knives and batons over a personal feud, leaving one person dead.

According to Ahram Online, 27-year-old Fam Khalaf was killed amid clashes sparked by an argument over whether Christian or Muslim children had priority to pass through a street.

Three people, including the father of one of the priests, were wounded, investigators said, and police arrested four people after the attack.

The Daily Mail notes that on Monday, mourners gathered at a local church for prayers for the dead and protests. Marching to the graveyard, they chanted "with blood and soul, we redeem the cross."

Also over the weekend, Ahram Online reported that five buildings, along with a nursery, were attacked and burned down by another Muslim mob that wrongly believed the homes and nursery would be used as Christian houses. At least 15 Muslims were subsequently arrested.

These two incidents are simply the latest in a string of attacks against Egypt's Christian community, which makes up just 10 percent of the country's predominantly Muslim population. Over the past several years, sectarian violence between the two religious groups has erupted over issues related to church building, religious conversions and interfaith relationships.

Earlier this year, a Muslim mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets while looting and torching seven Christian homes after rumors spread that the elderly woman's son had an affair with a Muslim woman.

The day before the attack, the family of the Christian man had notified the police of threats against them by Muslim villagers, according to Anba Makarios, Minya's top Christian cleric.

"No one did anything and the police took no pre-emptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks," the cleric said in a  TV interview. "We are not living in a jungle or a tribal society. It's incorrect for anyone to declare himself judge, police and ruler."

Makarios also said that if the case were different, and a Muslim man was having an affair with a Christian woman, the reaction would have hardly been so violent, he added.

"It is a disgrace for honest men to remain silent while accepting, seeing or hearing this," Makarios said.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called for the culprits to be held accountable and gave the military a month to restore property damaged during the violence, at no cost to the owners.

The president said Egypt appreciated the role of "glorious Egyptian women" and that "the rights and the protection of their dignity are a humanitarian and patriotic commitment before being a legal and constitutional one."

Egypt is number 22 on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, and has received the maximum score in the violence category.

"The large Coptic minority, while facing important difficulties, has been tolerated because of its historical presence and its demographic size," reads the report. "In recent years this has changed, however, causing historical Christian communities to be targeted as well."