Over 130 Egyptian Christians Spend Christmas in Jail

At least 130 Christians in Egypt still remain imprisoned after police attacked a church under reconstruction, a Christian missionary agency reported.

Local police have released 70 Christian prisoners in need of medical treatment, but the majority still remains in jail this Christmas season, according to Christian Aid Mission. The ministry is calling for prayers for the safety of the Egyptian Christians during their Christmas services and for financial aid to cover medical expenses of families who suffered from the attack.

Injured believers are expected to cover their own medical bills and pay for the rebuilding of their homes and business destroyed during the Nov. 24 attack, said Christian Aid Mission's Africa director Rae Burnett. Families who lost members in the attack have the additional expense of burying the dead.

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On Nov. 24, reportedly 2,000 security forces clashed with hundreds of Christians after they halted construction work on a church. Five people died and dozens were injured, including some 20 people who were blinded in at least one eye, as result of violence that ensued in Cairo's Giza district, according to Christian Aid Missions. More than 25 homes in the surrounding Christian neighborhood were also burned.

Last month, Giza Governor Gen. Sayyed Abdel Aziz told reporters that the builders did not have a permit to turn a Christian community center into a church, which would require a different license.

The Church Diocese in Giza then issued a statement refuting the Governor's allegations.

"The Governor of Giza gave instructions to modify the services building to a church building, but a decision by the Chief of the District to halt construction and remove the irregularities angered the people, who congregated next to the building, fearing that the district authorities would cause damage to it, triggered the events and the clashes."

Egyptian Christians in the area said they will still move forward with plans for outreach next year. They have requested prayers for an outreach at the Cairo International Book Fair next month that will draw leaders from the entire Arab world.

Local Egyptian Christians also requests Christians worldwide to pray for them in their Christmas services and personal prayers.

According to a list obtained by Christian Aid, believers in Egypt have asked that the Lord "would have mercy on them in the current situations and rescue them from the hostility of the police."

They have also requested prayers for "healing relations between the believers and their non-Christian neighbors who oppose the church reconstruction."

Christian Aid is accepting emergency relief funds for Christmas, which is celebrated in Egypt on Jan. 7.

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