Christian community under attack – Egyptian government blames Christians
Dear Friends and Partners,
Two villages in Egypt have recently been engulfed in violence in separate incidents involving attacks by Muslims on the Christian community. The Egyptian government is trying to use these incidents to promote the marginalization and repression of the Christian minority. As a result, we must speak up on behalf of truth and justice and demand fair treatment for our Egyptian brothers and sisters.
he first incident began on June 29, when an 18-year-old Muslim named Mohamed Ramadan Ezzat died in hospital after he was stabbed during a dispute with Emil Gerges, a Christian shop-owner in the village of Kafr El Barbari, north of Cairo. Seeking revenge for Ezzat’s death, his family attacked and burned Gerges’ store and two apartments owned by the Gerges family. On July 1, 2009 the violence spread to the Christian community in general as hundreds of Muslim mourners attending Ezzat’s funeral attacked Christian homes breaking windows and injuring 25 people. In the aftermath of the violence, Christian villagers fled or were remaining indoors in fear of further attacks.
The Egyptian government is using this incident as proof that Christians are to blame for such clashes. The Christian community is frustrated and angry, however, because this episode is consistent with other common cases that follow a familiar pattern in which a Christian kills a Muslim in self-defense resulting in a riot by Muslims. In this case Gerges had been forced to pay jizya, a kind of protection money demanded by Muslims from Christians in Egypt and other Muslim countries. When Ezzat attended at the store to collect the jizya, Gerges told him he could no longer afford to pay and offered items from his store. Ezzat then physically attacked Gerges, whose 20-year-old son, John, stepped in to protect his father, wounding Ezzat.
Emil Gerges and his two sons were arrested and remain in prison where it is feared they are being tortured, while his wife, who was also arrested, was released for health reasons shortly afterward. Ezzat’s family continues to threaten the Gerges family with revenge if they are not punished by the courts.
In a separate incident on July 3, Muslims in the village of Ezbet Guirgis set fire to a warehouse damaging two buildings. The warehouse was next to a building owned by the village church, which had applied for a permit to convert the building to church use. Existing facilities for the village’s 1400 Christians, who are limited to an old building that is smaller than 400 square feet, are woefully inadequate. Even so, the permit was denied but a rumour spread among the village’s 400 Muslims that the church planned to use the building anyway, which the village priest denied. In addition to the warehouse, the Muslims also tried to burn cars belonging to the church and the priest. Police arrested 11 Coptic Christians and 5 Muslims and there is concern that authorities are trying to torture one of the Christians into taking responsibility for the fires. There are also concerns that the village priest will be forced to leave the area as in a similar case in a nearby town in June.
In the wake of these incidents authorities ordered a curfew in both villages and restricted or at least monitored access. Tensions are high among Christians throughout Egypt who already fear that any minor incident could quickly escalate into major violence with authorities laying the blame on Christians.
• for Emil Gerges and his family, that they would have courage and be comforted in the midst of their ordeal and that the authorities would treat them with fairness and justice in keeping with truth;
• that the family of Mohamed Ramadan Ezzat would stop threatening the Gerges family and that they would encounter the Prince of Peace and experience the only true peace that can comfort and console them for the death of their son and brother;
• for the Christians of Kafr El Barbari and Ezbet Guirgis, and throughout Egypt, that they would be strengthened and comforted in this time of difficulty and be filled with a spirit of unity to stand up on behalf of truth and justice for the Christian community; and,
• that the Egyptian authorities would stop misrepresenting the facts in order to justify their continued marginalization and repression of the country’s Christian minority and that they would recognize the importance for the strength and future of their country of treating all Egyptians fairly and equally and respecting their human rights, regardless of their religion.
The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write to (contact details are included below):
• the Egyptian embassy in your country, demanding that the government stop misrepresenting the facts and blaming Christians for attacks against their own communities and that it take effective measures to stop such attacks and to ensure that the human rights of Christians and other minorities are respected and that all Egyptians are treated equally without respect to their religion; and,
• the Minister for Foreign Affairs or Secretary of State for your country, insisting that they make human rights and religious freedom a priority issue in their relations with Egypt.
Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
“They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream” in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.
Rev. Majed El Shafie
President and Founder
One Free World International
El Shafie Ministries
Sources: One Free World International, Compass Direct
The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
454 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, ON KIN 6R3
Tel.: (613) 234-4931; Fax: (613) 234-4398
Email: email@example.com (or: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Tel.: (613) 992-5516; Fax: (613) 992-6802
Email: Cannon.L@parl.gc.caIn the United States:
His Excellency Sameh Shoukry
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel.: (202) 895-5400; Fax: (202) 244-4319
Secretary Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Tel.: (202) 647-4000 (Main switchboard)