[notice]Orthodox leaders call for three days of fasting, prayer, mourning.[/notice]
By Wayne King — Compass Direct News
Funeral services were held yesterday in Cairo for some of the victims of a military attack against a group of Christian protestors that left 26 dead and hundreds wounded.
In the wake of what could be the worst act of violence against Egyptian Christians in modern history, leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church have called for three days of fasting and prayer for divine intervention, along with three days of mourning.
Leaders from other faith traditions among Egyptian Christians reported similar efforts among their congregations.
Samia Sidhom, managing editor for the Coptic weekly Al Watani, said Copts across Egypt are distraught about the attack and the future for Christians across the country.
“At this point you can’t even imagine what the future will be like,” she said. Speaking specifically about the call for fasting, she added, “At this point, either God does something or you get nothing at all.”
The attack started late Sunday afternoon (October 9) when Christian protestors marching through Cairo began getting pelted with rocks and other projectiles near an overpass that cuts through downtown Cairo. By the time the protestors were able to make it to a television and radio broadcasting building commonly known as the Maspero Building, the army began shooting into the crowd and ramming riot-control vehicles into the protestors.
Witnesses at the scene reportedly said attacks left body parts scattered at the scene. Amateur video at the scene shows two riot-control vehicles plowing into the crowd of protestors.
The protest came in response to a September 30 attack in Upper Egypt, where the Mar Gerges Church building was burned down along with several Christian-owned homes and businesses in Elmarenab village in Aswan.
The church building, which was being renovated, was attacked by local Muslims who claimed the congregation had no right to build it, despite legal documents parish priests put forth to the contrary. The local Muslims claimed the structure was a hospitality house.
Before the attack, parishioners of the church took down crosses outside the building. When it was being destroyed, contractors were removing domes that local Muslims held to be offensive.
The Mar Gerges burning was the third church in Egypt in seven months to be burned down by a mob.
Sidhom said Christian protestors were particularly upset about the church attack because the government blamed them for it, claiming the building was a hospitality house with illegal construction taking place.
Coptic Christians, once a majority in Egypt, now make up 7 to 10 percent of the country’s 80 million people.
The BBC reports that the interim ruling military council has ordered a swift inquiry into Sunday’s violence and that US President Barack Obama called for restraint “so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt”.
The Guardian newspaper comments that Sunday’s violence in Cairo marks an ominous development in the story of Egypt’s unfinished revolution. It demonstrates the dubious role being played by the army as eyewitness reports are clear that it was firing by the army, followed by the repeated crushing of unarmed demonstrators by an armoured car, that turned a peaceful demonstration for justice into a violent altercation that left 24 people dead.
More specifically, the violence is very bad news for Egypt’s beleaguered Coptic minority, says the newspaper. The Copts stand to lose more than any other group in Egypt’s current drift following the fall of an unpopular autocracy, and now face an uncertain future with a wide spectrum of possible outcomes, from a liberal democracy to an Islamic republic, or most likely of all, a continuation of army rule with different window-dressing.