After the Egyptian Revolution: The Wars of Religion
The angry, aggressive crowd formed within minutes of my arrival. Dozens of Muslim men came together in the middle of the dusty dirt path leading to the Church of the Two Martyrs in this village south of Cairo.
The men were determined to block access to what has become a sectarian sore: a church overrun by Muslim locals and desecrated.
“You can’t see it!” a group of men screamed.
In an armored personnel carrier, several soldiers in red berets watched the fracas from farther up the road.
Closer by, at least a dozen soldiers in flak jackets and helmets marched down an adjacent side street, barring anyone from following them. “You are not allowed to pass,” some of the men yelled at me. “Leave! Leave now!”
“Are you Christian?” another asked.
I told him I wanted to reach the church.
“It’s not a church,” he said, raising his voice. “It is a meeting place, and we don’t want a church here,” he added before grabbing my notebook, ripping out several pages and forcibly marching me out of the village.
(THE CHURCH OF ST MINUS AND ST GEORGE HAS BEEN LOCATED ON THAT SITE FOR 1700 YEARS – 400 years before the start of Islam)
(The dispute started over a relationship between a Muslim woman and a Christian man. When the father of the woman refused to “maintain his family’s homor (by killing his daughter) the father was murdered by a cousin. In turn, the murdered man’s son, killed his father’s murderer.)
“After Friday prayers, some of the youth were angry and still mourning, so they came to the church looking for that filthy Christian,” Mohammad said, referring to the young man involved in the love affair.
They didn’t find him, but they ransacked the church. “We found wine (communion wine) and books against Islam,” (Bibles – most of the Muslim villagers can’t read) Mohammad claimed as other men interrupted to speak of other alleged wrongdoings by their Christian neighbors. “They rape our women!” one yelled. “They overcharge us at their stores!” said another.
It is unclear how many people were killed in Sole, but after Christians demonstrated in Cairo on Tuesday night against the desecration of the village church, a fight ensued with groups of Muslims, leading to violence that left 13 dead and 140 wounded.
Tensions between Egypt’s majority Muslim population and Christians … rose sharply after a church in Alexandria was bombed on New Year’s Day. Twenty-one worshippers were killed in the attack.
Many of Sole’s Christian residents have fled, fearing further violence. Maher Sadiq, 26, isn’t one of them. He says many of the town’s Christian menfolk are staying to defend their homes. Sadiq, who says his house is on the same street as the church. “They’ve turned the church into a mosque,”he said by telephone. “There’s a banner in front of it that says ‘Al-Ramla Mosque.’ They’re not letting anyone go near the church. We will not leave. We’re prepared to die here.”
Aziz Narooz, 27, and Hani Diab, 26, traveled from Sole earlier on Wednesday to join the hundreds of Coptic Christians maintaining a sit-in outside the state television headquarters. Many were sleeping on blankets spread out on the pavement. Most were carrying large wooden crosses. “People are scared. Some haven’t left their homes in days,” “They burned our church, they kicked around the statues of our saints” and “They tore up the Bible, and they’re still there.”
Filed under: CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST, EGYPT, Middle East, MIddle East Violence Tagged: | After the Egyptian Revolution: The Wars of Religion, Egypt's Islamic Revolution, Muslim on Christian Violence Egypt, The Desecration of Two Martyrs Church Egypt