Egyptian Christians Enjoy Short Respite From Radical Muslims, but Fear More Retaliation Soon

Destroyed Coptic Church
Over thirty-five churches were attacked, damaged or destroyed during violence and protests that rocked Egypt earlier this month. |

Since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown on July 3, his radical supporters have ruled the southern Egyptian city of Dalga, carrying out various attacks of vengeance against the city's 20,000 Christians, whom they blame for Morsi's overthrow. The military government took control of the city earlier this week, prosecuting the Islamists, but Christians fear the peace will be short-lived.

"The government and its forces are not going to be here for long and when they are gone we go back to living with Muslims, just us and them," Coptic Priest Father Ioannis told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"One day, all this police and army will go and we will have no one on our side," local Christian Sameer Hanna Tanyous said.

Militants on motorbikes drove by Tanyous' home, running their fingers across their throats earlier this week, the Egyptian said. In other cities throughout Egypt, Christian boys and girls have been abducted and executed for ransom money, according to CP op-ed contributor Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam expert.

Nevertheless, as the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reported on Monday, Egyptian authorities recaptured Dalga from the armed crowds which had held sway there since July 3. "Two earlier attempts to retake Delga failed, but in the early hours of Monday morning police launched a third and decisive assault, and have now re-entered the town, residents said by telephone." The governor of Minya province, where Dalga is located, predicted further assaults of up to 10 other towns similarly overrun by Islamists.

The worst attacks on Christians since July 3 occurred on August 14. That day, more than 40 churches and many other Christian businesses and homes were attacked throughout Egypt, many of them burned to the ground, like Dalga's Monastery of the Virgin Mary and St. Abraam. Up to 100 Christian families have fled since July, according to the Guardian.

"Egypt has not witnessed this size of an attack on Christians since 1321," Samuel Tadros, a Egyptian Christian serving as research fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom told CP last month. Tadros blamed confused coverage, rather than intentional Western media bias appearing to support the Muslim Brotherhood, for the lack of American focus on these attacks.

"The army and the police didn't act against the people, and the [Pro-Morsi] protests were not peaceful," Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak told CP, aiming to clarify the events in Egypt to the Western world. He condemned the Egyptian state for failing to address the sermons from radical mosques, "which are inciting Muslims against Christians."

Open Doors USA, a group reaching out to persecuted Christians throughout the world, recently published a report of the carnage in an unnamed Egyptian village. "Almost every Christian-related place in the village was attacked, looted, destroyed or burned on the gloomy day of August 14," the report said.

"After the Muslim noon prayer, hundreds of angry attackers, armed with all sorts of thick sticks, knives and guns marched into the street, shouting victory against 'infidels' – in this case, meaning the Christian families living and working down the street in the Upper Egyptian village," it continued.

The report also told of a 22-year-old girl, whose wedding was scheduled in a few weeks, watching her brand-new kitchen appliances, pans, pots, sets of glasses and bedroom linens "carted off by the unwelcome visitors."

Despite the blood and carnage, Christians have responded with "the New Testament testimony of love and forgiveness," which has "been heard and deeply admired by millions of moderate Egyptian Muslims," Jerry Dykstra, director of media relations for Open Doors USA, wrote in a statement to CP on Thursday. "Christians are determined not to retaliate but let their light shine in their neighborhoods," he wrote.

Emphasizing the ongoing violence in Egypt, Dykstra encouraged Christians in the West to look beyond the events in Syria and advocate for their Coptic brothers and sisters. He quoted a Coptic priest from a ravaged village like Dalga, saying, "We're so grateful not only for the financial support we receive as we face our crisis, but also for the prayers and spiritual support we feel."

Donations to will be used to restore and repaint Christian's blackened houses, to buy new basic furniture, to provide food and clothes, and temporary housing for pastors and their families.

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