Mass no longer is being celebrated at The Church of St. Mary. Police officers guard the entrance.
Throughout the Egyptian town of Eastern Bani Ahmed south of Cairo, the Christian-owned shops are closed. At least seven Christian homes, and even more of their vehicles, have been ransacked, burned or both. At least 18 people are injured, and police have issued dozens of arrest warrants.
A disagreement over a song on the radio was all it took to set off the violence Aug. 3.
Since July 3, when the Egyptian military removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power, anti-Christian backlash has flared in pockets across Egypt. Though there have been many examples of Christians and Muslims breaking bread together and joining ranks to support moving the government off the Brotherhood’s Islamist path, the crescendo of violence has heightened Christian anxiety.
It has proven worrisome enough that Coptic Pope Tawadros II last week backed out of public appearances he had planned for this week at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. He determined his presence could endanger the congregation, according to Bishop Angaelos, leader of the Coptic church in the United Kingdom, who revealed the pope’s change of plans to the BBC.
Also last week, 16 Egyptian human-rights groups issued a joint statement of “grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the June 30 uprising.”