Hundreds of Muslim Demonstrators Attack Christians at Church in Egypt

(Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Security forces stand outside the Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 10, 2017.

A mob of Muslim demonstrators stormed a Coptic church south of Cairo, which is yet to be licensed by the government, and physically attacked worshipers, calling for the church to be demolished and vandalizing items inside the building, according to the region's diocese.

The Church of al-Amir Tadros in the Kafr al-Waselin village in Giza, about 60 miles from Cairo, was attacked following Friday prayers at a nearby mosque, when demonstrators gathered outside the building and chanted slogans, according to Agence France Presse.

"They stormed the place and destroyed what was inside it, after assaulting the Christians there," the diocese was quoted as saying in a statement.

At least three Copts were injured and taken to a nearby hospital, according to The Associated Press.

The church has been holding prayers for 15 years, and had officially sought to legalize the building's status under a 2016 law that laid down the rules for building churches. But new churches are rarely issued building permits as authorities fear that might lead to protests by hardline Muslims.

While the Minya governor, Essam al-Bedeiwi, has recently approved 21 applications of churches in rural Minya governorate, also in southern Egypt, some of these churches had to wait more than 20 years for a permit to come through.

Some believe that Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is keen to "show the U.S. that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate." Others say the approval of applications could be a result of recent visits by international evangelical delegations to Cairo.

Meanwhile, 230,000 security forces are expected to guard Christmas celebrations around Egypt this weekend.

On Palm Sunday, twin suicide bombings killed 47 people and injured 126 others at churches in Tanta and Alexandria.

In December 2016, 29 were killed and 47 were injured when a suicide bomber attacked St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Cairo.

Security personnel and officers will be deployed at the 2,626 churches in Egypt, with public parks, state institutions and tourist sites all being closely watched.

Part of the safety measures will include CCTV and metal detector systems at churches.

Although Coptic Christians in Egypt celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, a minority of nonorthodox church believers will mark the day on Dec. 25, like much of the Western world.

According to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List, Egypt ranks as the 21st worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. Additionally, the Congressionally mandated United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that the U.S. State Department list Egypt as a "Tier 2" country, a designation that singles out countries where religious freedom violations are tolerated.