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Egyptian military accused of lying over denial of anti-Christian violence

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt

The Egyptian military has been accused of lying about its role in the violence that left at least 25 people dead last week after generals denied firing on Christian protestors and running over them in armoured vehicles.

Military_Police_4X3.jpg
The Egyptian military has denied rolling over Christian protestors
CC BY 2.0 / Gigi Ibrahim

Generals from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces blamed Christian protestors for the violence, accusing them of “savage” attacks on the military. At a press conference last Wednesday (12 October) Maj Gen Adel Emara denied troops opened fire at protestors, claiming that their weapons did not contain live ammunition. He also claimed that the military were “trying to avoid running into protestors, not rolling over them”.

His account has been challenged with compelling evidence to the contrary. Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a member of the Revolution Youth Coalition, said:

These are blatant lies. The witnesses and the video clips prove that there was monstrous suppression by the army of a peaceful protest.

Journalist Samwel el-Ashay added:

At a certain point, things got out of hand and the armoured vehicles running around were actually rolling over protestors. I saw it with my eyes.

Autopsies and forensic reports also refute the military’s version of events; a third of the victims – most of whom were Christians – were killed by being run over by armoured vehicles, while two-thirds were shot with live ammunition.

Liberal political groups accused the military of lying about the violence and demanded criminal prosecution of the commander of the military police involved in the clashes.

As the military rulers seek to fend off growing criticism over the violence, the military prosecutor said that he will take over the investigation, effectively barring the civilian prosecutor from continuing his own enquiry. The move has been criticised by activists and rights groups, who said that the investigation would not be impartial.

State media criticised 

Meanwhile, Egyptian state television has also come under fire for its part in fuelling the violent assault on Christian protestors. It has been accused of spreading false information and inciting violence against Christians. During the clashes, news readers appealed for “honest Egyptians” to protect their soldiers against Christian “mobs”, while the Christians were denounced as “sons of dogs”.

There have been calls for Information Minister Osama Heikal to resign. And last Thursday (13 October) hundreds of journalists, broadcasters and public media figures marched to the state TV building in Maspero to denounce the “sectarianism of the media”; they called for a clean-up of state TV.

Calls for justice

Last Sunday’s protest was sparked by the torching of a church in Aswan Province on 30 September; it was the latest in a long line of violent anti-Christian incidents. Following the assault on Christian protestors, senior Egyptian Church leaders have made calls for all unresolved attacks on Christians and churches to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. 

The government has pledged to make changes to the laws regarding church buildings that many Christians feel are discriminatory and legitimise Muslim hostility towards them. But previous promises to lift the restrictions on church buildings have not been fulfilled.  

The leader of an Egyptian Church in the UK said that Egypt was at a “turning point” when the country can either embrace “positive reform and the building of a new Egypt … that instils a sense of citizenship, ownership and responsibility into every Egyptian”, or continue “leaving unlawful acts unresolved and unprosecuted, presenting one part of the community as a justifiable target, and continuing to drive a wedge between members of a single society, and this will lead to the demise of all... [I]t is Egypt that will weaken if Egyptians do not stand together, and if this unhealthy separation and discrimination continues."

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 20 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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