Egypt arrests 15 over arson attacks on Christian homes


(Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi flee from shooting in front of Azbkya police station during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo, August 16, 2013.

Egyptian police have arrested 15 people in connection with an arson attack on houses of Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt over the weekend, according to a security source.

On Saturday, the 15 defendants allegedly burned five Christian Coptic homes in Abu Yacoub village in Minya after hearing rumors that a church was being built in the area. Police arrested the suspects hours after the arson happened, Al-Ahram reports.

This is not the first time that locals have attacked Copts and torched their property. Last month, villagers set fire to a building under construction in Samalut which they believe was a church. In May, a mob stripped naked an elderly Coptic woman and attacked Christian homes over her son’s alleged affair with a Muslim woman.

Earlier this month, a stray bullet hit an Orthodox Christian nun from Mar Girgis Monastery in Old Cairo, killing her. After that, a man and his son were reportedly murdered in a “revenge attack.” In the village of Karm el Loofy, a kindergarten managed by Christians in Minya was also torched. A Coptic Orthodox priest from St. George Church was killed in Al Arish, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took responsibility for the murder.

Because of the series of attacks against Egyptian Christians, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya has called on authorities to enforce the law protecting them from sectarian violence. Archbishop Anba Makarios said one such attack occurs every 10 days on the average, Christian Today relays.

While tension between Christians and Muslims in Egypt has always been present, the situation worsened after the Arab Spring in 2011. Sectarian violence has seen a significant increase in the last few months, causing concern among the roughly nine million Christians in the majority Sunni Muslim country.

In a phone interview with Al-Monitor from Amsterdam, blogger Mina Fayek said the Egyptian government does very little to safeguard Copts and other Christians from persecution and discrimination.

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