Egypt: Legal Cases and Threats Against Christians

Egyptian Christians have requested our prayers following three incidents in recent weeks.

On 4th March a court sentenced Rev. Makarios Boulos to six months’ imprisonment for a minor violation of buildings regulations. Rev. Makarios is the priest of St. George’s Church in El Marinab, Aswan province, for which we requested prayer last September and October. Recall that false rumours that the church had failed to secure planning permission for renovation work led to an arson attack by a Muslim mob on 30th September in which the building was badly damaged. Recall too that this destruction and the authorities’ failure to provide adequate protection prompted demonstrations in Cairo by Christians and other sympathisers which were violently interrupted on 9th October with the loss of 27 lives.

No perpetrators of the arson attack have been brought to justice. In addition, although the ruling military council ordered in October that damage be repaired at government expense, the governor has so far failed to implement this.

Rev. Makarios’ recent sentencing relates to a discrepancy between the terms of the building permit and actual work being undertaken. According to Compass Direct News, his lawyer has objected that, under Egyptian law, it is contractors and not property owners who are responsible for permit violations. Coptic activists also note that double standards are used when applying construction laws to churches. An appeal has been submitted.

On 29th February Makarem Diab was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment by a court in Assiut for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad. An appeal was submitted. However, on 16th March a large mob prevented Makarem’s lawyers, both Muslim and Christian, from entering the court for a hearing, thereby obstructing Makarem’s right to a fair trial. The appeal has been postponed to 5th April.

On 4th March a mob of Muslims surrounded a Christian-run guesthouse in Abu Al-Reesh, Aswan province, terrorising two nuns trapped inside. A third nun was elsewhere on the site. The next day a school on the same site was threatened. The nuns were not physically hurt but were traumatised, and one has been hospitalised because of the trauma. Attendance at the school dropped by a third following the incident.

Egyptian Christians of all traditions and denominations are mourning the passing of Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church since 1971, who died on 17th March.

Egyptian Christians request our prayers that:

a. Appeal hearings for Makarios and Makarem will be held without delay, conducted fairly and the charges against them dismissed
b. The church building in Elmarinab will be rebuilt and reopened
c. The rights to a fair trial and to freedom of expression will be respected for all Egyptians
d. The three nuns would know the healing touch of Jesus following their trauma
e. The guesthouse, school and other facilities on the site would be able to operate normally
f. Egyptian Christians will know the peace and comfort of Jesus following Pope Shenouda’s death, and that a wise and Godly man will be selected as his successor
g. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

Open sources used: al-Ahram, Compass Direct News

(Source, Middle East Concern)

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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