(ADDS REACTION SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER, CHANGING DEATH TOLL TO INCLUDE CHRISTIANS)
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egyptian Christians appealed for prayers Wednesday, August 14, as dozens of churches were attacked by furious Islamic mobs in response to a deadly government crackdown on protests in the capital Cairo that killed at least scores of people.
In total 278 people died so far, including at least two Coptic Christians and three journalists, and hundreds were injured in clashes across the country that erupted Wednesday, August 14, after Egyptian security forces cleared out thousands of people at sit-ins demanding the return of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, Health Ministry officials and activists said.
The death toll was much higher than the previously reported 150, as fears were growing of all-out civil war.
Christians, seen as supporting the ouster of Morsi, were soon targets of furious Morsi supporters, rights investigators explained, as Egypt’s presidency declared a state of emergency. Christians said up to 52 churches were attacked.
Earlier in the day well-informed rights investigators already noticed massive damage to buildings. “We regret to report that at least six church buildings have been attacked so far, three in Minya, one in Sohag and two in Fayoum,” areas confirmed Middle East Concern (MEC) advocacy group in a statement to BosNewsLife when the violence had just begun.
“In addition, the Al Raai Al Saleh Convent in Suez has been set on fire and Christian-owned businesses in Sohag and Assuit have been targeted,” MEC added. It was not clear yet how many Christians were injured in those attacks amid a still unfolding situation.
It said that the anti-Christian violence was a clear “reaction to the government’s crackdown on two camps in Cairo established to call for the reinstatement of President Morsi.”
In an appeal obtained by BosNewsLife and released by MEC local Christians urged fellow believers to pray that “There will be no further outbreaks of violence” and that the “effective rule of law and order will be established for the benefit of all citizens.”
They also said it was important to pray that “Those affected by violent incidents will know the healing touch of Jesus, physically and psychologically” and that “There will be effective protection of church and other property against attacks by extremists.”
Christians, also known as Copts in Egypt, also urged prayers for wisdom that “Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all citizens, with people of different persuasions able to live alongside one another peaceably.” They said they also wanted to have an ” opportunity to play an increasingly prominent and effective role in addressing the needs of all Egyptians.”
As the bloodshed continued Wednesday, August 14, Vice-President Mohammed El Baradei announced his resignation from the interim government, saying he “cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood.”
Witnesses said smoke was spread across the sky in Cairo at the height of the fighting from fires that were smoldering in the streets at two sit-ins.
At the Rabaa Al-Awadiya camp, a protester told reporters were everywhere and bullets could be heard, though from whom no one could say.
There is wider concern the tensions could lead to more sectarian violence in a nation where dozens of Christians have been killed since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Copts comprise some 10 percent of Egypt’s mainly Muslim population. Church leaders have complained about growing harassment by Islamic hardliners, including from followers of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party.
JEWISH LEADERS REACT
In a reaction, the Nazis-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center told BosNewsLife that “No one can predict where the Arab world’s largest and most important nation will be a month from now, let alone in a year.”
However, “one thing remains certain — the Muslim Brotherhood remains the most dangerous, anti-Semitic organization anywere in the world today. It must be called out for its anti-Semitism, its hatred of Coptic Christians, and its treatment of women,” the group added.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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