(Photo: Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Coptic Christians in the United States are leading the call for an international investigation into the recent violence in Egypt, fearing that any action taken by the country's current form of government would simply be a façade, said the president of the religion's advocacy group in California.
The ruling military council is temporarily in charge of Egypt while elections are organized following President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting earlier this year. The same council has ordered an inquiry into the violence that left 26 dead and at least 200 injured Sunday.
Mounir Bishay, president of the Christian Copts of California, told The Christian Post that he is planning a rally in downtown Los Angeles Sunday, to bring awareness to the plight of Copts in Egypt. There are an estimated 250,000 Coptic Christians living in California, mostly in Los Angeles County and neighboring counties, he said.
“We call upon the United Nations to conduct an international inquiry in the matter as any investigation conducted by Egyptian authorities will likely be corrupted and biased,” Bishay said. “We ask the international community to intervene to stop the persecution of the Coptic Christians of Egypt.”
According to Bishay, the violence in Egypt is the result of hatred against Christians by Muslim extremists, found in the ranks of Egypt’s military, police and civilians.
“The Copts, a large Christian minority of about 15 million, were angered over numerous increasing attacks that have resulted in the destruction of many churches. The latest of these attacks targeted a newly built church in Almiranab, Aswan, south of Egypt,” Bishay stated in a press release announcing the rally planned for Sunday.
“The church obtained all required building permits, including the governor's approval, yet the Muslim neighbors objected to having a church constructed in their neighborhood. A compromise was reached where the Christians agreed to remove the bells and the cross from the top of the church. However, a few days later, after being incited by the Friday Muslim sermon, a large Muslim mob came in and destroyed, then burned the church to the ground,” he reported.
“This is a result of much religious hatred that has invaded Egypt these days,” he explained to CP. “Muslims and Christians used to live together with relatively small problems, but these days with the religious hatred invading Egypt there is a feeling of dislike from some Muslims. I am not talking about all Muslims, but the percentage of the extremists among the Muslims is increasing very highly.”
Bishay said Sunday’s attack lasted several hours “yet met no intervention from state officials – no police forces or firefighters were dispatched to save the church.
“As soon as the Sunday protest reached its meeting place in front of the TV building, the protesters came under attack by hundreds of thugs, in plain clothes, as well as large forces of police and military using live ammunition. Police vehicles and military tanks scaled sidewalks and ran over peaceful protesters, crushing their bodies and instantly killing them,” he said.
The members of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt have started a three-day fast to mourn those killed in the protests. Christians in the United States have been also asked to observe the mourning period, which began Tuesday.
Sunday’s rally in Los Angeles will take place between 2 and 3 p.m. in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard.