Large gangs attacked two Christian communities in Egypt in the latest of a series of ongoing attacks on the country's Christian minority.
In the most recent assault, on Saturday, a mob destroyed seven Christian homes near Sohag, 240 miles south of Cairo, after rumours started that one Christian was building a church.
The believer in question, Wahib Halim Atteyah, was attacked and robbed of more than £5,000 before his attackers bulldozed his home and other buildings on his property in Awlad Khalaf village. The gang went on to raid six other Christian homes, burning them to the ground, according to Compass Direct news agency.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the assault on Atteyah's property. Atteyah himself and one other Christian have also been arrested, apparently for using firearms – a charge Atteyah has reportedly denied.
Compass Direct also reports that moderate Muslims in the area intervened to ensure that most of the property that the mob stole from Christian homes was later returned.
Earlier, last Thursday, an armed mob surrounded St George's Church in Beni-Ahmed al-Gharbiya village near the town of Minya, about 130 miles south of Cairo. They threatened to kill its pastor, Gorgy Thabet, unless he left the village. Pastor Thabet was able to leave only when security police arrived on the scene and escorted him from the building.
This is not the first time Pastor Thabet has met with hostility. In fact, he had only recently returned to the village after being forced to leave in March when hard-line Muslims protested about expansion work on a church building. The building project was abandoned – and now protesters are demanding Pastor Thabet leaves the village for good. His opponents are reported to be hard-line Salafi Muslims, a group who model themselves on early generations of Islam's followers.
There have in fact been several attacks on Christians by Salafi Muslims in the post-Mubarak era. In May, 12 people died in the Imbaba district of Cairo when riots broke out following rumours that a church was holding against her will a woman who, Muslims claimed, had converted to Islam (Prayer Alert, May 10, 2011). More than 230 people were injured and St Mary's Church was gutted by fire in the ensuing violence.
Christians in Egypt remain apprehensive about the outcome of parliamentary elections scheduled for September.
(Sources: Compass Direct, Reuters)
• Ask God to protect Christian communities across Egypt from the threat of extremist violence, particularly in the run-up to the elections. Ask Him to bless and restore believers who have suffered attacks.
• Thank God that on several occasions moderate Muslims in Egypt have taken a stand against Islamist extremism after instances of religious persecution against Christians.