Bishop Anba Macarius of the Coptic Orthodox Minya Diocese in Egypt survived an assassination attempt Monday morning when his vehicle came under fire. The bishop was visiting the village of Garees in Abu Qerqas to spend time with the family of a murder victim.
According to Daily News Egypt, Bishop Macarius was offering his condolences to the family of Karim Sanir Lamaee, a Christian resident of the town who was murdered after he sold property to donate to the Church.
Macarius’s assailants, who are yet unknown, opened fire on his vehicle from 7:00 a.m. Monday for 90 minutes, during which time the bishop found refuge in a home in the town.
The Minya Diocese said the village was home to the Church of the Archangel Michael, which was closed ten years ago due to attacks against it and a lack of security presence in the general area. According to the statement from the diocese, citizens in the area had lived “for years under the threat of arms and extortion, forcing half of its Christian and Muslim population to leave.”
The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that local Muslims were angry because they believed Macarius was coming to reopen the Church of the Archangel Michael.
“In other words, Muslims were angry because of the presence of a church in the village and the police do not want any trouble with them, and the Copts have to go without prayers just to appease the Muslims,” said one Coptic activist.
The report from Daily News Egypt states that the Minya Governorate experienced some of the worst sectarian violence this past summer following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
On Sunday, the diocese praised fellow Muslim residents who had protected churches and provided refuge to Christians that had come under attack during the recent wave of violence against them.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights indicated in August that at least 45 churches were attacked simultaneously during the clearing of the pro-Morsi protests at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square. In addition, it was noted that the wave of attacks and damage sustained was “unprecedented.”