On Friday 17th June, a crowd of Muslims attacked several Christian buildings and homes in the village of Qaryat Al Bayda, just south of Alexandria in Egypt. The attack was triggered by rumours that a Christian man was planning to turn a house currently undergoing construction into a church.
After Friday prayers, the angry group, chanting “we don’t want a church”, attacked the house of Naeem Aziz, the man accused of wanting to build a church. Naeem Aziz and his brother were both assaulted, and nearby houses and a building owned by a local church were attacked and looted.
Naeem Aziz denies that he was intending to build a church, saying he was merely building a new house for his son.
The minister’s car was also attacked, and a local Christian activist, Ramy Kashwaa, reported that, “Had it not been for the intervention of our sane Muslim brothers, the minister could have died.”
The police later arrested six Christians, including Naeem Aziz and his brother, on charges of holding prayers without permission and constructing a church building without a permit. They were released on bail the following day. Six Muslims were also arrested, but they were released almost immediately afterwards without charge.
This latest attack reflects the enormous difficulties Egyptian Christians face in obtaining permission to build new churches. A law dating back to the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire still requires the head of state to give permission for a new church building. Many in the Muslim majority resist the construction of any new church buildings and there are often violent attacks like this one in response to rumours of a new church building.
However, news emerged last month that the Egyptian government has begun taking steps to amend these laws to ensure it is easier for Christians to obtain permission for new church buildings.
- Pray for this Christian community in Egypt, for reconciliation and healing of relationships with their Muslim neighbours, and for freedom to gather to worship without fear.
- Pray for the six Christians who were arrested. Pray that all charges against them will be dropped.
- Pray for the Egyptian government, as it has promised to ease restriction for Christian communities wanting to build churches. Pray that they will follow up with this promise, and for other laws to protect Christian communities to be put into place.
- Pray for the Church in Egypt as it faces increasing opposition. Pray for strength of faith, for unity and that the witness and testimony of Egyptian Christians will point many in Egypt to the truth of the Living Christ Jesus.
Deuteronomy 31 vs 6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’“