One year after the attacks, Mina Thabet can still see the ruins in his mind — a seemingly endless series of scorched, hollowed-out church buildings, schools, homes and businesses stretching out across Egypt.
On Aug. 14, 2013, thousands of Muslims began a four-day rampage throughout the country seeking revenge for the military-backed, popular ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. They reportedly attacked anything remotely associated with Christ, Christians or Christianity.
When it was over, Thabet, a well-known Coptic human rights activist, went to survey the damage. He said it was a life-changing experience.
“I visited Minya — it was awful,” he said. “When I got to the Corniche area, I saw how much damage had been done, and I saw the bathroom that had what remained of two people who were burned alive inside.”
A year has passed since the attacks, but Thabet and others say Christians continue to struggle to rebuild their lives. After the first day of attacks, then-Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, now the nation’s president, publicly promised the army would restore all church buildings destroyed in the attacks. Only five of the 32 destroyed church buildings have been rebuilt.
More importantly, Thabet and others said, Christians have received no government assistance to replace more than 100 homes, businesses and other items of personal property lost in the attacks.
“There were three stages for rebuilding and renovating churches,” Thabet said. “Of the three stages, they haven’t finished the first step, which doesn’t even include 10 churches. They haven’t done anything to help the people.”
The August 2013 violence was reportedly one of the most widespread acts of persecution of Christians in Egyptian history. Although only six Coptic Christians were killed, a small figure compared with other attacks on them, the number and variety of places attacked dwarfs other instances of violent persecution in the country.
Property damage estimates still vary, but human rights activists and church officials generally say 32 church buildings were destroyed — 25 burned down, and seven looted and then torn to pieces by mobs. Fifteen other church buildings, including monasteries, were severely damaged along with eight Coptic-run schools, two buildings on church compounds and an orphanage belonging to Christian social service groups. One of the monasteries lost was more than 1,600 years old.
Days after the attack, Egyptian officials publicly promised to rebuild all of the destroyed church buildings. Instead, the government opened an account for Egyptians to make donations to rebuild, and donations lagged. The rebuilding was supposed to take place in three stages, with the first stage to be completed at the end of June.
“The first stage included 10 places. Five of them are churches and five of them are schools or church associations,” said Ishak Ibrahim, freedom of religion and belief officer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “But the work is going so slow that people are still going out to pray on top of the ruins of their old churches.”
Some churches have opted to forge ahead with renovations and rebuilding and not wait for the army to do the work, Ibrahim said.
“We are very disappointed, because it has been a year and no government officials have come out publicly and announced their plan as to what churches are going to be fully or partial renovated,” he said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Staff/Morning Star News