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Pastor of torched Egyptian church jailed over building’s height

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt, Africa

The pastor of an Egyptian church that was torched by Muslims – prompting a Christian protest that was brutally crushed by the military – has been jailed over the building’s excess height.

Makarios Bolous was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 300 Egyptian pounds for violations regarding the height of St George’s Church in the village of Elmarinab, Aswan province.

Hanging-Church_4X3.jpg
Churches in Egypt are vulnerable
to attack by Islamists
JennaU / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The century-old building was torched by a Muslim mob on 30 September 2011. It was under renovation at the time, and permission for the work had been granted by the governor of Aswan.

Local Muslims took objection, and after making demands that the building be stripped of any sign of its being a church, they turned violent. Attackers demolished the dome, walls and columns before torching the building.

Thousands of Christians took to the streets of Cairo in protest, and on 9 October they came under brutal attack by the security forces, Islamists and thugs. In what was described as the worst violence in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, military vehicles charged at Christians who were demonstrating near the state TV building in Maspero Square; the protestors were also shot at, beaten and dragged through the streets. At least 25 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

Following an international outcry over the incident, Field Marshall Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, gave orders to the governor of Aswan that St George’s be rebuilt at the expense of the government. Nothing has yet been done.

One church leader said:

We are not allowed to pray there or come near it by order of the authorities.

Construction workers had started removing the excess height before the building was torched. At Mr Bolous’ court hearing, the church lawyer presented documents showing that the architect and building contractor – not the pastor – had responsibility for this work, but this was not taken into consideration. St George’s will appeal against the ruling.

Mr Bolous has also been prevented from going into the village by the local Muslims.

The attack on St George’s was one of an increasing number of violent anti-Christian incidents in Egypt since the revolution. Now that Islamist parties hold the majority of the seats in the new parliament, Christians are fearful that their vulnerable position in Egyptian society will only worsen.

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    • Pray for Christians in the village of Gudrikia, Kandhamal district, who lost their church building in the 2008 anti-Christian riots in Orissa state, India. Earlier this year, they planned to rebuild the church, and on 11 March, they took the stones they had bought to the site to start the work. But they were blocked by a group of Hindu fundamentalists, who threatened them. The previous church building had been burnt down, and the land where it once stood is now used by Hindus for farming. The latest incident highlights the ongoing hostility towards Christians in the area. Pray that the Lord will soften the hearts of Hindu extremists in India, and that they will allow Christians to practise their faith in freedom and peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 14 hours ago

    • Pray for Christians and other non-Hindus in India following the landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the country’s general election. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. The party has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states where it holds power have generally experienced a rise in anti- Christian violence. The party was in charge of Orissa state during the horrendous anti-Christian riots of 2007-08. It has also pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end “proselytising”; this may be used to restrict legitimate Christian evangelism. Pray that the new government will give equal rights to all India’s citizens and provide effective protection for Christians, Muslims and others from Hindu extremism. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we lift up to You today the heartbroken family of Mary Sameh George, a young Christian woman who was killed in an Islamist attack on a church in Egypt. We pray that You will comfort them and give them Your peace. We thank You that Mary was not ashamed to make her allegiance to You known, even taking the risk of provoking murderous anger against herself. We pray also for the families of three others who were killed in this attack at a church in Ain Shams, a suburb of Cairo, on 28 March. Lord God, may the hostility of Muslim Brotherhood supporters towards Christians in Egypt be restrained. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that as believers in some areas of Egypt continue to be at risk of violence from Islamists, Barnabas Fund is able to provide various kinds of practical help for needy Christians there, especially those most affected by the political turmoil. We are supporting Christian families in Upper Egypt with housing costs, medicines, food and schooling for their children, and 30 Christian students who were on the verge of dropping out of education because of lack of money have received funding to complete their education. Pray for all those receiving this help, that they will also be encouraged spiritually. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that the authorities in Egypt are pursuing justice for the Christian community following widespread violence against them by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Christians were scapegoated by the Islamists for the downfall of President Mohammed Morsi. On 14 August, mobs torched scores of churches, Christian institutions and private property in what was described as the worst single day of violence against the Egyptian Church since the 14th century. Over 100 Muslims have been charged in connection with the attacks; at the time of writing they were due to stand trial for rioting, attacking citizens and targeting the churches and homes of Christians. Pray that justice will be done and restitution made to churches and individuals who suffered material losses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

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