By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO/LONDON (BosNewsLife)– The influential leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain announced three days of prayer as Egypt’s minority Coptic Christians feared more violence in the aftermath of the mass killing of more than 50 Islamist protesters in clashes with Egyptian security forces.
General Bishop Angaelos urged believers to pray for “peace, reconciliation and an end to needless violence and loss of life in Egypt,” starting Tuesday, July 9, marking an end of the Coptic Orthodox Fast of the Apostles and the beginning of the month of Ramadan.
He spoke as Egypt’s military-led interim government presented an accelerated six-month timetable for a return to civilian democracy and chose liberal economist Hazem el-Beblawy as temporary prime minister following days of deadly violence in which Christians were targeted as well.
Previous attempts to name Mohammad ElBaradei, the famed head of the UN nuclear watchdog and a Nobel peace laureate, were canceled amid opposition from Islamic hardliners and violent confrontations in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.
The Egyptian Ministry of Health said at least 51 people died and 455 were injured Monday, July 8, outside a Republican Guard barracks in Cairo where supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi gathered, believing he was being held there.
Events leading up to the deaths are disputed, with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood claiming the army fired without provocation on unarmed supporters as they prayed, while the army maintains it was repelling an attack on the barracks and that Muslim Brotherhood gunmen initiated the shooting.
Interim President Adli Mansour has set up a judicial committee of inquiry to investigate the killings.
In a statement, Bishop Angaelos said that “after witnessing millions of Egyptians across the whole nation and from all walks of life standing together to peacefully express their desire for a new Egypt, it is unfortunate that this unified effort is being undermined by needless violence and bloodshed.“
Christian rights activists expressed concerns Tuesday, July 9, over a rise in Islamic attacks against Copts, who were allegedly seen as part of a “conspiracy” to remove Morsi’s regime.
In one of the latest reported attacks Tuesday, July 9, masked gunmen opened fire on Mar Mina Church in the al-Manakh, of the strategic northeaster port city of Port Said, but escaped before they could be detained security forces.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but earlier on July 6 Coptic Priest Mina Aboud Sharween reportedly died in Northern Sinai’s provincial capital, El Arish, after gunmen opened fire on him while driving by on a motorbike.
Christians said the priest died from internal bleeding as he was shot nine times, thrice in the leg and six times in the head and chest.
On the eve of that killing, violence erupted in Luxor following reports that a Muslim man died from injuries after allegedly being attacked by some Christians.
In response, groups of Muslims attacked the villages of Naga Hasan and Dabaya, leaving four Copts dead and 32 injured, three of whom remain in hospital in critical condition, rights activists said.
Tensions already rose July 3 when a march by Morsi supporters turned violent in the village of Delgia in Deir Mawas Minya Governorate, with protesters reportedly attacking buildings belonging to the Coptic Catholic parish of St George while the El-Saleh Church sustained heavy fire. Homes and businesses were looted and torched, while two Copts were injured, Christians said.
Twenty-seven houses belonging to Copts were also burned, according to rights investigators.
“Those who are perpetrating attacks against the Christian community must be apprehended and charged,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a Christian advocacy group which has “extended condolences” to the victims families.
Thomas stressed it is also crucial that “those responsible for the violence at the Republican Guard barracks” on Monday, July 8, “are held to account.”
He said his group is standing “solidarity with Egyptians as they pray for their country at this critical time in their nation’s journey to full democracy.”
Christians, mainly known as Copts in Egypt, comprise roughly 10 percent of the country’s 83 million people.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
Help BosNewsLife to be the voice of the voiceless. Click here for a subscription.