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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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    • “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” said the Lord Jesus (John 15:20). According to the Pew Centre for Research, Christians face religious oppression in 151 of the world’s countries, whether direct or indirect. On this Barnabas Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, let us remember our brothers and sisters facing tremendous pressures of all kinds because of their faithfulness to Christ and help them with our prayers (Philippians 1:19). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

    • Hardline Buddhist groups in Sri Lanka are becoming increasingly militant, and in two recent incidents Christians were hospitalised with injuries sustained in mob violence. The General Secretary of one such group, Ravana Balaya, which launched an anti-Christian campaign on 15 July, said they would “advise” Christians to halt their activities but, if the Christians failed to take heed, the group would take firmer action. Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka who face opposition from their neighbours, and ask God to protect them from further violence as they seek to maintain their witness (Acts 4:19-20). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Since General al-Sisi became President of Egypt in June, Christians in the country have felt the pressure upon them ease off somewhat. However, a convert from Islam, Bishoy Armia Boulous, previously known as Mohammed Hegazy, remains in prison. He was rearrested on 4 December 2013, charged with defaming Islam after he fi led a public lawsuit to change the religious affiliation listed on his national identification card from Muslim to Christian. Please pray that there will be genuine religious liberty for Christians from a Muslim background as well as those born into Christian families. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Lift up in prayer Christians living in Minya, Egypt whose homes were attacked on 5 August by local Muslims. The violence broke out after Muslims learned that believers in Yaacoub planned to build a new church. Opposition to construction of church buildings is one of the most common reasons behind anti-Christian attacks Scores of Egyptian churches were attacked following the removal of Mohammed Morsi by Muslims in Egypt. Restrictions on the building of churches, a cause of hardship for Christians for many years, were lifted in Egypt’s recent new constitution. Pray that the assailants will be brought to justice and that the plans for the local church building will continue. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that ten Egyptian churches destroyed in anti-Christian attacks last year have now been reopened. Around 60 churches across Egypt were attacked by Islamists in the summer of 2013. The assaults were provoked by the ouster of former president Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Although the current Egyptian government has promised to rebuild all the damaged churches, most of the Christians have not yet received aid and some are worshipping in ruined buildings. Pray that the rebuilding process will continue and that the Lord will protect His people in Egypt, especially while they are still meeting in damaged buildings. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Oct 2014 00:00

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