Egyptian Church Mass Cancelled for First Time in 1,600 Years as Attacks Continue

As Christians in Egypt find themselves at the center of hostile attacks by Islamic protesters, a church in Minya was forced to cancel Mass on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.

"We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years," explained Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery in Degla, south of Minya. The priest revealed that supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi destroyed the monastery, which includes three churches, according to Times of Israel.

He added that one of the attacker had wrote on the monastery's wall "donate [this] to the martyrs' mosque."

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Coptic Christians make up only around 10-12 percent of Egypt's population, and are considered one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. They have been heavily targeted by Muslim Brotherhood-led protesters in recent weeks, who accuse them of backing the rallies against Morsi that took him down. Christian schools, churches, monasteries and bookshops have been attacked and burned, and there have been several reports of Christian casualties.

American Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Jordan Sekulow told The Christian Post on Tuesday in a phone interview that it was "absurd" that Islamists are taking out their anger on Copts.

"On one hand you have the Muslim Brotherhood, who in the past has seen that targeting Christians has unified Muslims. I think that says more about the entire Muslim community than it does just the Muslim Brotherhood, and this gives Muslims that are not part of the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to stand up and say 'No, this will not unite us – in fact, this will divide us,'" Sekulow told CP.

The ACLJ is leading a petition calling on President Barack Obama to demand Christian protection in Egypt in exchange for the foreign aid the U.S. sends the troubled Arabic country.

The Obama Administration and several Western news sources have blamed Egypt's interim government for the widespread violence that has killed hundreds of people in Cairo and several major cities, but the Coptic Church has backed security forces against what it called "groups of armed violence."

"The Egyptian Coptic Church is following the unfortunate developments on the ground of our country Egypt and emphasizes its strong stance with the Egyptian police, armed forces and other organizations of the Egyptian people in the face of groups of armed violence and black terrorism," the church, headed by Pope Tawadros II, said in a statement.

"While we appreciate the sincere and friendly position that understands the nature of the developments, we strongly deplore the media fallacies that are prevalent in Western countries," the statement added.

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