As protests against President Hosni Mubarak continue to grip Egypt’s capital Cairo, Barnabas Fund is bringing food and other basic necessities to Christians caught up in the chaos.
The charity, which supports the persecuted church, said shops owned by Christians were being looted and that the community in general was being affected by the widespread shortages in essential goods.
It said that although many shops were being attacked and looted, Christian shops were being “particularly targeted.”
The protests have made it even harder for Christians to make ends meet and collective worship has become virtually impossible.
One contact in Egypt told the ministry that Christians were staying in their homes and “praying hard” in the midst of the crisis.
Some church ministers have even taken to sleeping in their church buildings to protect them from attack, while many church meetings and gatherings have been canceled, the ministry said.
SAT-7, a ministry that broadcasts Christian programs into majority-Muslim countries via satellite, said it had told its Egypt staff to stay at home, while its four security officers had been sleeping in the TV studio and office day and night to protect the building from looters.
Despite the difficulties, the contact told Barnabas Fund that Christians in Egypt were “trusting God.”
Barnabas Fund is appealing to Christians to pray that stability will soon be restored and that Egyptian Christians will be protected amid the tumult.
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund, said: “Christians in Egypt need our immediate practical help and prayer support as they find themselves embroiled in this unfolding crisis.
“We must also pray that as Egyptian citizens seek freedom from an autocratic leader, they will not fall into the hands of a strict Islamic regime that will only further oppress its people, especially Christians.”
Christians in Egypt have faced severe discrimination and escalating violence in recent years. More than 20 Coptic Christians were killed in a bombing attack on a church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day, followed just over a week later by the murder of a Christian man when a gunman opened fire on a train bound for Cairo.
Although the violence is perpetrated by a minority of hard line radical Muslims, the country’s laws entrench the perception that Christians are second class citizens and many Egyptian Christians complain that justice is not served to those who are attacking them.
Former UN ambassador John Bolton warned during the weekend that Egypt’s Christian minority could become even more vulnerable if President Mubarak is ousted.
He said: “It is really legitimate for the [Christians] to be worried that instability [will] follow Mubarak’s fall and his replacement with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Barnabas Fund echoed his fears.
A spokesman for the organization said: “In addition to the targeted, violent attacks, Egyptian Christians face discrimination in many areas of life, such as in education and employment. Conditions for them would only worsen under an Islamic regime.”