By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Dozens of people were killed Friday, August 16, in clashes between security forces and protesters prompting more fear among minority Christians.
Coptic Christians anxiously watched as least 70 died when troops began cracking down on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi holding a “Day of Rage”, in defiance of the interim government-imposed state of emergency.
Morsi supporters, united in the Moslim Brotherhood party, were also seen destroying dozens of churches, Christian businesses and homes. Several Christians as well as journalists were killed in the violence.
Christians have been seen by hard-line Islamists of the Brotherhood as supporting the ouster of Morsi.
The leader of country’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, had previously expressed his support for the military coup that unseated the country’s first Islamist president last month, amid fears of rising Islamic extremism in the country.
COPTIC CHRISTIANS FEAR
Observers said Coptic Christians widely supported Morsi’s opponent in presidential elections last year. Copts, who have complained of harassment and attacks, make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s nearly 90 million people.
On Friday, August 16, scattered clashes and skirmishes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and police broke out after thousands of supporters of the group marched in several locations across the country.
Fierce fighting between demonstrators and military forces in Cairo’s Ramses Square has left dozens of people dead. Military helicopters hovered overhead. Witnesses said there was firing from the helicopters on demonstrators in the square.
Arab satellite channels showed Brotherhood supporters firing automatic weapons at targets beneath a main bridge in the Cairo district of Zamalek. Some witnesses said the protesters were firing at police while others said they were firing at residents of the area.
Amid the violence, Christians rushed to try to protect churches and other Christian sites. However over 50 churches and other Christian sites have been attacked since Wednesday, August 14, several Coptic sources and activists said.
MANY CHURCHES BURN
Most of the sites can no longer be used for regular worship, as at least 40 churches were burned across Egypt since Wednesday, August 14, according to local nongovernmental organizations and the Coptic Church’s youth group.
The Egyptian military has pledged to reconstruct and restore all the burned churches, state media reported, but it was unclear Friday, August 16, whether that would be possible.
United States President Barack Obama condemned the attack against the Christian minority. “We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches,” Obama said during a break in his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human rights group based in Cairo, said it had documented attacks against Coptic monasteries, schools and shops.
An Islamist mob also set fire to and destroyed one Seventh-day Adventist church in Assiut, 125 kilometers (200 miles) from Cairo, a leading pastor said.
ADVENTIST CHURCH BURNED
Llewellyn R. Edwards, the president and pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Egypt and Sudan, in Cairo, told reporters that he knew of an Evangelical church and an Orthodox church that have also been attacked.
“It appears to me that some extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to make Christian churches and institutions a scapegoat for their anger,” Edwards added.
The Egyptian Bible Society headquarters in the Egyptian capital was also attacked, reports said, at a time when the organization was already struggling as two of its Christian shops were burned.
Yet the organization urged Christians to forgive their enemies and pray join other Egyptian believers to pray for the future of this wounded nation amid fears it will experience civil war.
A top Islamic cleric delivered a Friday prayer sermon on state TV, calling on all Egyptians to eschew violence and for political leaders to sit down at the negotiating table.
He warned Egyptians against sectarian strife and asked them to refrain from bloodshed and of the taking of innocent lives.
(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.