One thousand Christians were today (11/26) trapped inside the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in West Ain Shams,Cairo, after more than twenty thousand Muslims attacked them with stones and butane gas cylinders. The Church’s priest Father Antonious said that the situation is extremely dangerous.
The Muslim mob that attacked the church blocked both sides of the street and encircled the church building, broke its doors and demolished its entire first floor. The mob were chanting Jihad verses as well as slogans saying “we will demolish the church” and “We sacrifice our blood and souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Islam”, while the entrapped Christians chanted “Lord have mercy”.
The incident started on the occasion of the inauguration of the Church today, when the Muslims hastily established a Mosque in the early hours of this morning, by taking over the first floor of a newly-built building facing the Church and started praying there.
When the security forces tried to disperse the mob, they went to nearby homes and shops owned by Christians, and were armed with sticks, butane, knives and other sharp objects. Witnesses said the mob included children from as young as 8-years old to men of over 50-years old, in addition to women.
The Church building was originally a factory that was adapted into its present state, the matter which took over five years to complete and to get the necessary permissions from the authorities to have a Church established.
Human rights organizations and lawyers were refused entry into the besieged Church.
In response to all this, the head of the Coptic Church ordered Christians to stop praying in the converted site.
The Coptic Pope Shenuda III barred Egyptian Christians from praying in a church building in Cairo Tuesday after sectarian violence broke out this past weekend over the buildingâ€™s use as a Christian prayer hall.
At least eight men were arrested on Sunday night when Muslims clashed with Coptic Christians in the neighborhood of Ein Shams to protest the use of the property for prayer, according to state news agency MENA.
Muslims reportedly threw stones and burned two cars during the riot.
In response to the clash, Pope Shenuda III ordered Copts to cease praying in the church-owned building that was previously an unused factory.
Following the clash, Copts complained about the unfair law that requires them to be granted presidential permission before building a church or expanding an existing church. The authorization is difficult to near impossible to get and many Christians feel the law exists only to oppress the Christian minority community in a country where 90 percent or more of the population is Muslim.