By BosNewsLife Middle East and Africa Services
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- More than a dozen Christians have been killed in Egypt after security forces withdrew from key areas and rioters attacked Christian homes and churches, Christians missionaries said Wednesday, February 2.
E3 Partners, a Christian mission group that works extensively in Egypt and the surrounding region, said at least 15 Christians were killed near the town of Al-Minya, about 150 miles south of the capital Cairo. “With no police available, no one was willing to help them. Family members are taking turns keeping watch over their homes, as robberies, rape, looting, and car theft are occurring routinely now,” said E3 Middle East Director Tom Doyle.
It was not immediately clear on what the latest death tally was based, but there have been several reports of attacks against Christians in the country.
Among those attacking Christian shops, homes, churches and other properties were believed to be at least some of the thousands of inmates who escaped from prisons in recent days as well as supporters of Mubarak, including police ditching uniforms to participate in the mayhem, witnesses said.
Earlier, 23 Christians died and 70 injured when a suicide bomber attacked a Coptic Christian Church at a New Year’s Eve mass in Alexandria. Archbishop Raweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, reportedly denounced what he called a lack of protection. "There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church," he said. "Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from Al Qaeda?”
News of the latest crackdown on minority Egyptian Christians, also known as Copts, came as protesters demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and his supporters clashed in Cairo. "The Christian minority continues to face mounting persecution, largely unbeknown to the public eye," E3 said.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reportedly said that President Barack Obama is aware of attacks against Christians in Egypt and other countries of the Middle East. Christianity in Egypt dates back to the first century as Alexandria was an early center of Christianity. Today, the Christian minority only makes up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, according to several estimates.
While Christians support democracy, there is concern that Islamic hardliners will be part of a future government, including the Muslim Brotherhood group, which played a key role in anti-Mubarak demonstrations. "With the Muslim Brotherhood rising up, Christians are very nervous about who might be next in line to take over for Mubarak," explained Doyle. "Many times it’s been stated that there’s democracy but it’s just been a veil for authoritarianism."
Other analysts say that the Muslim Brotherhood so far did not poll more than 20 percent of voters and would not be the dominant force in a future government that would be more secular than the strict Islamic rule in countries such as Iran.
However critics say that the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in the 1920s, has several militants among its ranks, including the number 2 of the Al-Qaeda terror network, Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was imprisoned for three years on weapons charges following Egyptian President Sadat's assassination in 1981.
The group has reportedly also links to the militant Hamas group, which claimed suicide bombings and rocket attacks in Israel, and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine whose goal is the destruction of Israel, according to experts.