Christian protestors who staged a nine-day sit-in calling for the rebuilding of a church torched by Islamists have come under attack by the Egyptian army.
According to a news release from Barnabas Aid, the demonstrators were reportedly shot at and struck with electric batons outside the state television headquarters in Maspero, downtown Cairo. Fifteen suffered injuries, including broken limbs, head wounds and burns.
The assault happened in the early hours of March 14 – two hours before an agreed suspension of the sit-in. Representatives of the demonstrators had met with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and members of the military council the previous afternoon to discuss their demands.
Barnabas Aid reported the army has said it will rebuild the church in Soul, which was destroyed on March 5. The demonstrators agreed to suspend the sit-in until March 25 to give the government time to fulfil its pledges.
Around 500 people were still at the site when military forces smashed the demonstration in the early morning hours. Barnabas Aid reported one of the organizers said the soldiers cut the wire fences and started running towards the people, shouting the Islamic war cry “Allahu Akhbar” (“god is great.”)
Thousands of Christians took to the streets of Cairo last week in protest over the attack on the village of Soul, 30km from the capital, where Christian homes were targeted and the church destroyed by a mob of nearly 4,000 Muslims.
Barnabas Aid said on the evening of March 8, a Muslim mob attacked the Christian demonstrators around Mokattam garbage village, resulting in deadly clashes. Thirteen people were killed and 140 wounded. Witnesses have since said that they saw people being killed by the army, who were firing shots apparently to control the riots.
Meanwhile, Christians gathered outside the TV headquarters calling for the rebuilding of the church as well as an end to government persecution and discrimination. They want churches closed by the state to be opened, and fair, balanced coverage on state television.
Barnabas Aid provides encouragement and assistance for the persecuted church.
For more information about Barnabas Aid, go to www.barnabasfund.org