In southern Egypt a 70-year-old Christian woman was stripped, beaten and marched naked through the streets by an armed mob of some 300 Muslim men, in punishment for being the mother of a Christian man suspected of carrying on a relationship with a Muslim woman.
In retaliation for the allegedly blasphemous, inter-religious affair, the mob also torched seven homes belonging to Christian families in the village of Karam in the Minya province, burning them to the ground. The Muslim mob chanted “We must drive out the infidels” as they moved from house to house, which they “attacked, burned, looted and destroyed,” according to reports.
Egyptian Christians represent only about 10% of the nation’s population, which is overwhelmingly Muslim. In 2013, following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, mobs similarly set fire to dozens of Christian churches and institutions.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has demanded justice for the crime and ordered the military to restore the damaged property at no cost to the owners. So far police have arrested six men suspected of taking part in the violence and are looking for 12 more, according to local security officials.
The attack reportedly began at around 8:00pm on May 20, though it took the police two hours to respond and officers arrived only after the mob had already dispersed, according to an indignant statement circulated by the local Orthodox Coptic church.
In a television interview on Wednesday night, Anba Makarios, the most senior cleric of the Minya diocese, complained that police had been warned of threats against the Christian family, but still gave the mob “ample time” to carry out the violence.
Nonetheless, Church members have said they are convinced that state authorities will be true to their word and “will spare no effort to arrest the assailants.” During the presidency of el-Sissi the government has been seen as much more supportive of the Coptic Church than under the Muslim Brotherhood or during the 30 years of the Hosni Mubarak regime. In fact, a year ago 71 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to life imprisonment for burning a Coptic church to the ground in the neighborhood of Cairo.
The Coptic Pope Tawadros II has called for calm after the incident, noting that authorities have assured him that they “will hunt down those responsible and deliver them to justice.”
The local governor of the Minya province, Tarek Nasser, played down the incident, suggesting it wasn’t as bad as it appeared and insisting that the matter was being resolved.
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