Arsonists burn down homes of Egypt’s beleaguered Christians — By: Catholic News Agency

A Coptic Orthodox church in Old Cairo, a historic area of the Egyptian capital. / Credit: Sun_Shine via Shutterstock

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Apr 24, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Muslim extremists set on fire several homes of Christians in Minya, a province in southern Egypt, in a continuation of anti-Christian violence less than two weeks before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. 

According to The New Arab, when anti-Christian fanatics failed to dispossess Christians of their homes in retribution for attempting to build a church in Al-Fawakher village, they proceeded to burn down the houses on the evening of April 23.

On his official Twitter account, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Macarius wrote on April 24 that Egyptian security forces “brought the situation under control, arresting the instigators and perpetrators,” and that the government “will compensate those affected and hold the perpetrators accountable.” 

After noting that calm now reigns in Al-Fawakher, Macarius added: “May God protect our dear country, Egypt, from all harm.” 

CNA reached out to authorities of the Coptic Orthodox Church but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Video of the burning homes was shared on social media that featured celebratory music and Arabic lyrics.

Christianity in Egypt dates to the very beginnings of the faith and nearly 10% of the country’s population of 111 million are Christian. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, while about 2.5% belong to the Coptic Catholic Church and other particular churches. 

Christians constitute the largest minority in Egypt, and Macarius leads the Coptic Christians of Minya Province, where approximately one-third of the country’s Christians live. He narrowly survived an assassination attempt more than 10 years ago. 

The Open Doors organization, which monitors persecution against followers of Christ, ranks Egypt as the 38th most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. In 2018, seven Christians were killed by Muslim terrorists who attacked a bus carrying pilgrims. In 2017, Islamic State terrorists bombed two Coptic Orthodox churches, killing over 40 people. And in December 2016, a terrorist detonated a bomb killing himself and 189 worshippers at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, injuring more than 400 others. 

On his 2017 visit to Egypt, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for the small Catholic community and called on Christians to forgive the atrocities. Relations between the Vatican and the Coptic Orthodox Church, the leader of which is Pope Tawadros II, have improved in recent years. 

Earlier this year, Pope Francis recognized the Coptic Orthodox Church’s canonization of 21 Coptic Orthodox Martyrs of Libya. 

Last year, Pope Tawadros II celebrated a Divine Liturgy at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where he delivered a homily on Christian unity. Since then, however, Tawadros II has reduced relations with the Vatican following the December 2023 publication of Fiducia Supplicans.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), while noting that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government has appointed the first-ever Christian to the Supreme Constitutional Court and also sentenced a extremist Muslim murderer of a priest, has criticized the “slow pace of approvals for the backlog of legalization applications,” which would allow the construction of new churches. Egypt is on the USCIRF Special Watch List for tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.

In 2016, Egypt’s legislature passed the Church Construction Law, ostensibly to legalize such construction with permits.

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