By BosNewsLife Africa and Middle East Services with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- Some 130 Christian worshipers, including children, remain imprisoned in Egypt, a month after some 2,000 security forces attacked their church under re-construction, killing several people, American and local missionaries told BosNewsLife Friday, December 24.
U.S.-based Christian Aid Mission (CAM), a group active in Egypt, said "many" of those being held captive by police are women and children who had come to the church on November 24.
They were detained when police attacked the church construction site of St. Mary’s Church in Giza, a Cairo suburb near Egypt's pyramids, according to witnesses and rights investigators. "Over 20 people were blinded in one or both eyes, five were killed and scores were injured. Over 25 homes in the surrounding Christian neighborhood were burned to the ground" CAM said.
A presidential decree from the central government had been granted to allow the rebuilding of the church, but local officials and police "decided to destroy the new church building before it could be used for worship this Christmas," according to missionaries.
Giza Governor Sayyed Abdel-Aziz told reporters however that the Christians "misused" a permit for a social center to build a church.
Church memvers said they had the right documents and would continue to build the three-floors domed structure despite apparent Muslim opposition. The Christians said police chanted Islamic war cries as they attacked the believers, most them Copts, and attempted to demolish the building.
CAM's Africa Director Rae Burnett said her group is collecting emergency relief funds for Christmas, which is not celebrated in Egypt until January 7. "The most important aid we can send is financial. Because injured believers are being required to cover their own medical bills at government hospitals and pay for rebuilding their homes and businesses destroyed during the anti-Christian rioting," Burnett told BosNewsLife.
"Those who have lost family members have the additional expense of burying their dead," the official stressed. Burnett said Christian leaders were asking for the emergency aid to help suffering family members who survived the police attacks. "We appreciate your love and concern for your brothers and sisters here in Egypt," added one leader who is distributing emergency humanitarian relief from CAM, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Despite the reported difficulties, Egyptian Christians and missionaries said they would continue Christian activities, including evangelical "outreaches" planned for January and at the Cairo International Book Fair, when leaders from the Arab world are expected to gather in Egypt.
CAM said it had received "Christmas Prayer Requests" from Egyptian believers asking Christians around the world to intercede in their Christmas services and personal prayers that the Lord "would have mercy on them in the current situations and rescue them from the hostility of the police."
They also prayed for "healing relations between the believers and their non-Christian neighbors who oppose the church reconstruction."