The Egyptian military has started rebuilding destroyed Christian churches and properties, years after the Muslim Brotherhood tore the buildings down.
On Christmas Eve, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi apologized to the nation’s Christian population and reiterated his pledge to rebuild the churches. He initially made the promise when he took office in 2013.
“In this occasion, I want to exhort you all, let no one come between us,” he declared. “Nothing can harm us, not our economic conditions or political conditions. Unless we diverge, we can overcome anything.”
He added: “We have taken too long to fix and renovate [churches] that were burned … This year everything will be fixed. Please accept our apologies for what happened … God willing … by next year there won’t be a single church or house that is not restored.”
The military began reconstructing the churches destroyed in August 2013 after the government removed protesters staging sit-ins for then-President Mohamed Morsi. Then-defense minister al-Sisi vowed to fix the churches.
Muslims joined efforts to raise money to build a new Coptic Church just north of Cairo in April. Coptic Orthodox Bishop Benyamin started a fund to build a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. He asked his parishioners to reach people near and far to donate towards the church. Islamic leaders in the area heard about the fund and asked Muslims to also donate money.
“Most of our people are afraid,” explained Father Mina Adel, a priest at the Church of Two Saints in Alexandria. “Not a few are leaving – for America, Canada and Australia. Dozens of families from this church alone are trying to go too.”
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