Egypt's Christian minorities are preparing for Christmas with "resilience" after a year of unprecedented violence, the UK's most senior Coptic bishop has said.
Human rights organisation International Christian Concern (ICC) has expressed concern after it learned a church in Egypt was recently the target of a mob attack.
ICC said around noon on 22nd December, a Muslim mob gathered in front of St. Tadros building service in the village in the Giza Governorate. The mob broke into the building, destroying items in it and critically injuring three Coptic Christians.
According to one eyewitness, the previous day, "extremists in the village incited the people against the church. Fr Morcos Saad, the priest of St. Tadros, had reported the threats and three policemen from a police station had arrived to guard the building".
According to ICC, there are about 3,000 Christians in the village, and they do not have a recognized church building. St. Tadros is a de facto church located inside a service building which was donated to the diocese in 2001. The building was renovated to include a nursery, a place for mass, and prayer meetings.
The eyewitness continued: "[On 22nd December] those three police men who were assigned to guard the building disappeared. At about 1:15 p.m., many Muslims... gathered in front of the building services and chanted 'Allah Akbar Allah Akbar, we would demolish it…’
“They then broke the door of the building and broke into it, completely destroying its contents... they looted the new clothes of the poor people which was meant to be distributed to them before Christmas.
“They threw the Bibles and Christian books outside the building on the street and trampled them.
“They attacked three Copts who live next to the building... with clubs and they were hospitalized in critical condition."
ICC has learned that one of the Chrisitans attacked was the person who had originally donated the land of the building; the other two were family members.
It added that it took more than an hour for security forces to arrive at the village, and after making initial arrests, they then closed St. Tadros.
"Despite the presence of security forces in the village, we still receive threats from the Muslim villagers. They have threatened us that they are going to burn the service building. We are afraid that they will attack us again as soon as the security forces leave the village," reported one Christian resident.
Another resident said: "What did we do to those people to attack us and attack the place we pray in? We are very peaceful and have done nothing to them. We feel that our rights are lost and we aren't protected."
Claire Evans, ICC's regional manager added "This event, occurring just weeks before the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, is one of great sadness. The serious injuries sustained by the three Copts, as well as the substantial damage done to St. Tadros, have greatly shaken the village's Christian residents.
“We pray for their safety and for the speedy healing of those injured, as well as for the protection of St. Tadros from any future attacks."
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