Coptic Christians Pelted With Rocks, Four Churches Closed as Government Treats Prayer ‘as a Crime’

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SHAFAQNA – Coptic Christians in Egypt have said that they have been pelted by rocks while the government in the southern province of Minya has closed down four churches this past month, much to the protest of the believers.

“We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state. However, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for. The Coptic Christians go to the neighboring villages to perform their prayers,” the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya said in a statement, as reported on Sunday.

“What happened within two weeks, hasn’t happen over years; churches are closed, the Coptic Christians are being attacked and their property destroyed, and there is no deterrent. The bargaining and the balance are usually used under the name of peaceful coexistence. The Copts always pay the price of this coexistence, not the aggressors,” the statement continued.

It further called the reaction from Egyptian authorities “disappointing,” and argued that whenever there is an attack on Copts, aggressors are treated with impunity.

Coptic Christians have complained that they have been harassed and pelted with rocks at churches, Reuters noted.

The Minya security directorate has not yet commented on the statement from the Minya diocese. The government has vowed to protect Christians from violent Islamic attacks on a number of occasions, though Christians have complained that not enough is being done to secure their safety.

A number of families who have been forced to flee North Sinai said in a statement in May that they are “suffering” due to neglect.

“We are the families displaced from al-Arish to Port Said in February. We are living inside small rooms inside the youth camps and the aid building. We are suffering and none of the officials or the Port Said governor will listen to us,” the statement read at the time.

“As time passed, 28 families remained in the camps and aid buildings. Three months passed without any attention from the government or officials in Port Said. The governor then declared that there was a lack of residential houses to transfer the families to, in addition to a lack to jobs, which forced the martyr Nabil Saber to return to Arish, where he was killed — a message to every Copt thinking about returning.”

The statement came following a deadly attack by IS gunmen on a group of Copts traveling to a monastery in Minya, which left 29 believers dead and 24 others wounded.

Bishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K. also recently condemned the killing of priests in Egypt, such as the fate of Samaan Shehta, who was murdered in Cairo by a suspected IS radical.

“While recognizing that anger may often open a path to hatred or resentment, there are times at which it is a natural expression of a human emotion, and reaction to a sense of deep injustice. I am sure that I am not alone in my anger, but that it is shared by every law-abiding person of any belief and indeed of none, who has witnessed this vicious and inhumane attack,” Angaelos wrote about the killing.

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