The President and CEO of Open Doors USA Dr. Carl Moeller has called on the international community to pray for Christians in Egypt amid the continuing conflicts in the country which saw 26 killed and about 200 injured in Cairo, on Sunday.
Moeller released a press statement Monday urging an end to the violence. He said: “Please pray with me for a halt to the loss of lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt.”
“Pray for calm. Pray for those who have resorted to killing and wounding to stop their actions,” he added.
The 26 casualties were reported Sunday night after Egypt’s military and police sought to quell peaceful protests by members of the country’s largest Christian denomination, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The protests were organized to speak out against last week’s attack on a church in the Aswan province, which were committed by Muslim extremists.
“This is a time for the entire body of Christ to pray for the church in Egypt and the entire region. It is also a time for all peoples of every religion to come together and work for true freedom, democracy and peace,” said Moeller.
It remains unclear whether the victims killed were mostly Christian, but there were reports of suspected Islamist groups throwing stones at and beating protesting Copts who were demanding a halt to the growing attacks on churches.
The death toll is expected to rise, as local media are still struggling to gather information amid the ongoing unrest.
Violence has continued through to early Monday.
At 12:18 a.m., local time, witnesses told Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that groups of “thugs” were attacking businesses owned by Christians near Abdel Moneim Riyadh Square, which was the epicenter of violence.
The daily said a group of men chanting, “Islamic, Islamic!” – “a common slogan of Islamist groups” – were spotted at Cairo’s Qasr al-Ainy Street less than an hour before the post-midnight attack.
Another group, chanting “Allahu Akbar,” was seen standing next to a group of Central Security Forces officers elsewhere, it added.
The originally peaceful protests by Coptic Christians were calling for a halt to church attacks after the Marinab Church in Aswan was attacked on Sept. 30 allegedly by Muslim citizens, who claimed the church did not have the license for the construction of a dome.
The crackdown on protesters began minutes after Prime Minister Essam Sharaf asked military and security officials to “contain the situation.”
However, Sharaf has since blamed the violence on the “enemies of the January 25 Revolution.”
Open Doors is an organization working in countries around the world, seeking to strengthen and support Christians living and practicing in oppression.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. Over recent months Christians in the country have been anxious about their future in the country, as Islamic groups which remained underground or inactive during the rule of the now ousted president Hosni Mubarak, became more socially and politically active following the fall of the regime in a “January 25 Revolution.”
Christians have complained that the interim military administration is doing little to protect their community as violence and attacks have continued to escalate over recent weeks.