Dear Friends and Partners,
In an unprecedented act of officially-sanctioned repression, Egyptian security forces opened fire on Coptic Christian demonstrators in Cairo late last night, leaving at least 26 dead by the official count (some sources indicate the number is actually much higher) and hundreds injured.
Thousands of Christians had gathered in the Shubra district of northern Cairo to stage a peaceful sit-in at the state television building to protest the interim government’s lack of response to a string of anti-Christian attacks in recent months. The violence erupted when bands of armed young men began attacking the Christians. After initially standing by without taking any action to protect the Christian demonstrators, the Egyptian security forces themselves then engaged the demonstrators directly with lethal force. Security forces fired indiscriminately into the crowd with live ammunition and drove armoured vehicles and tanks into the crowd, ruthlessly crushing any demonstrators in their path.
The assaults by Egyptian authorities continued even after the Christian protesters began to disperse from the area. Gangs attacked cars thought to be carrying Christian passengers and the security forces went so far as to follow wounded Christians to the Coptic hospital where they are being treated and to attack both the wounded themselves and the medical staff caring for them. Moreover, around 150 Christians have been arrested (some in the hospital), in the words of Egypt’s official state media outlet, as the instigators of chaos.
While some news reports in the international media have made reference to the involvement of armed gangs, they have tended to gloss over their role, leaving the impression that the Christian demonstrators are responsible for initiating the violence. However, despite media reports implying that the Christians attacked security forces with Molotov cocktails and torched military vehicles, our sources on the scene confirm that these actions were, in fact, carried out by government-sanctioned gangs whose aim was both to escalate the situation in order to justify military intervention and to pin the outbreak of violence on the Christian demonstrators. Although some of the demonstrators did respond in self-defence to the brutal tactics of the security forces, mostly by throwing available objects such as sticks and stones, this was an unarmed crowd of protesters staging a peaceful demonstration with no plan for a violent confrontation with security forces.
The Christian community in Egypt, which makes up approximately 10% the population, has been under increasing pressure from ultra-conservative Islamic forces whose influence has grown in the power-vacuum left by the demise of the Mubarak regime earlier this year. The latest attack which directly inspired yesterday’s demonstration took place on September 30, 2011, when a mob of over 3,000 hard-line Muslim extremists burned down the Mar Gerges Church in the Aswan province village of Elmarenab, along with several nearby Christian homes and businesses. The Elmarenab attack was the culmination of weeks of harassment by Islamist groups aimed at halting ongoing renovations to the church and represents merely the latest incident in an escalating series of attacks targeting the Christian minority since the spring.
Egyptian Christians are in urgent need of our help. We cannot afford to sit idly by and leave our brothers and sisters to face this crisis alone. As we celebrate Thanksgiving and thank God for all the blessings we enjoy, including freedom to worship or not to worship in any way we choose, please stand up and make your voice heard on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Egypt who live and worship in daily apprehension and fear of violent reprisals.
That peace would prevail and that the Christians would be protected from further violence and reprisals from both government and unofficial forces. Pray that the Egyptian security forces would stop these attacks immediately and instead would do their job and begin protecting the Coptic Christians.
For healing for the wounded and for comfort for the families of the dead during this time of tremendous trial and sorrow. Pray that the faith of the Christians would be strengthened so that they can stand strong in the face of this trial and serve as beacons of truth and love in this dark situation.
For the Egyptian people, that their thirst for truth and freedom would be filled and that they would be able to find true peace and meaning in the Prince of Peace. Pray that this incident would not be used by extremists to justify an increase in violent repression against Christians and other religious minorities, but that Egypt would see a peaceful transition to a truly democratic government that will respect and protect the right of all Egyptians to live and worship freely in peace and security.
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