In the midst of recent violence in Egypt, the Coptic Bishop of Luxor says he was terrorized Aug. 16 by Islamists who tried to break into his house and kill him.
“During a demonstration in Luxor a group of Islamists tried to break into my house and tried to set fire to the whole building,” Bishop Youhannes Zakaria Badir told Aid to the Church in Need Aug. 19.
“Thank God, the army intervened to our aid.”
His message was sent alongside that of Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of the Coptic Eparchy of Assiut, who said he believes “that the West does not realize what is actually happening; the reality is that we were attacked by a group of armed terrorists.”
Bishop Badir added that Christians are “willing to suffer, to lose their churches and homes,” and that they “accept it is for the good of our country and of all Christians and Muslims of Egypt.”
The Luxor bishop said that since the start of harsh anti-Christian attacks on Aug. 14, many churches have been closed and faithful, priests and religious are afraid to leave their homes.
“We prefer to stay at home, safe from further violence.”
The attacks began shortly after the Egyptian military killed protesters in Cairo who were demanding the restoration of Mohammad Morsi, who had been elected president following the country's Arab Spring, yet was ousted by a military coup July 3.
The demonstrators, who are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement, then began vandalizing and burning churches, cars, shops, schools and homes belonging to Christians across the country, convinced of their complicity with the ouster of Morsi.
Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the nation's largest Christian group, had publicly supported the military's coup.
Bishop William Samaan told Aid to the Church in Need that 80 churches have been burned or damaged since Aug. 14. “It is true they should be allowed to protest, but without using weapons,” he said.
The Egyptian military has cracked down on all protests, and has arrested both Morsi and Mohammad Badie, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the Aug. 14 crack down, violence has spread across the country, with some 900 dead in the past week. While violence against Christians in Egypt is linked to Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood has officially stated that it “stands firmly against any attack – even verbal – against churches.”
According to Bishop Badir, five Christians and a moderate Muslim were killed in Dabbiah, near Luxor.
He stated Islamists wrote anti-Christian slogans on religious buildings, including “down with you liars, down with you traitors” on the walls of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish of Saint Cyril in Cairo.
Christians across the country have been attacked, with seven killed in Al Nazla and one in Sohag. In Alexandria, a Coptic taxi driver was beaten to death after telling protesters they were disrupting his work.
Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak stated Aug. 18 that “out of love for our country and in solidarity with all lovers of Egypt, both Christians and Muslims,” the patriarchate will not label the crisis “a political struggle between different factions.”
Rather, he insisted, the conflict is “a war against terrorism.”