By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egyptian police have detained six men after an armed mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack in which seven Christian homes were also looted and torched, security and church officials say.
Last week’s outbreak of sectarian violence in Minya province village of Karma, south of Cairo, began May 20, after public accusations that the elderly woman’s son had an affair with a Muslim woman — a taboo in conservative Egypt, the local Orthodox Coptic Church said.
Coptic Bishop Anba Makarios, General Bishop of the Diocese of Minya, said in a statement that some 300 armed men began attacking Christians in the village, looting and setting fire to seven homes and causing nearly $40,000 worth of damage.
He added that the 70-year-old woman was dragged out of her home by the mob who beat her and insulted her before they stripped her off her clothes and forced her to walk through the streets as they chanted Allahu Akbar, or “Allah is great.”
Details of the attack emerged this week amid an ongoing investigation, BosNewsLife learned.
The woman reportedly went to police only five days after the incident as she initially found it too difficult to “swallow the humiliation” she suffered.
Security officials said the six men who were detained were believed to have taken part in the violence, but added that they are looking for a dozen more suspects.
In published remarks, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the culprits should be held accountable. He gave the military a month to restore property damaged during the violence, at no cost to the owners.
El-Sissi said Thursday, May 26, that his nation appreciates the role of “glorious Egyptian women” and that “the rights and the protection of their dignity are a humanitarian and patriotic commitment before being a legal and constitutional one.”
Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, urged restraint and coexistence and said he is following up the case with security and state officials, who had “given assurances” of bringing the perpetrators justice.
Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s foremost religious institution, condemned the attacks and said members of Beit al-A’ila or ‘House of the Egyptian Family’, a religious initiative promoting tolerance and protesting sectarianism, would visit the troubled region.
Rights activists said they remain concerned about the future of minority Christians in the province. “While the responses of President Sisi and Al-Azhar are deeply gratifying and
encouraging, it is vital for local authorities to be held to account from now onwards for failing to provide adequate and timely protection to vulnerable communities,”
said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
He stressed that it was crucial for authorities in predominantly Muslim Egypt to “ensure a definitive end to the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of sectarian violence.” Thomas told BosNewsLife that CSW is “deeply concerned to hear of the violence in Upper Egypt [region] and are particularly appalled by the attack on a vulnerable elderly woman.”
“Our hearts are with her and we pray for her speedy recovery from this deeply traumatic experience. For men to launch such a brutal and reprehensible attack on a defenceless senior citizen is cowardly, inexcusable, and far more dishonouring of the character of the
perpetrators than of the victim,” Thomas added. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
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