3 Christian churches in Egypt attacked on Easter Sunday

Monday, April 17, 2006

CAIRO Christians have again come under attack in a major city in Egypt.

Three Christian churches were attacked over the weekend in what appeared to be a coordinated effort. At least one Christian congregant was killed and 15 others were injured by Muslims who slashed their way through Mass on April 14.

The attacks took place in Alexandria and sparked clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims. Police sent hundreds of officers to separate the two groups.

"[Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak, where are you?" a crowd of about 600 Copts chanted.

On Saturday, clashes again erupted between Christians and Muslims in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city. Officials said Christians attacked Muslims and vandalized cars after the funeral of a 67-year-old man stabbed to death in church the previous day.

Police fired tear gas to quell the riot. At least 30 people were injured.

Authorities have provided contradictory information regarding the April 14 church attacks. At first, Egyptian police said the attacks on Christian churches were committed by three people. Later, the Interior Ministry said only one person described as psychologically unbalanced was responsible.

"This morning a citizen attacked three worshippers inside the Mar Girgis Church in Al Hadhra with a knife and then fled and went into the Saints Church, where he attacked three other worshippers and again fled," the Interior Ministry said on April 14. "While he was trying to enter into another Mar Girgis Church, he was stopped and arrested by police."

Officials said parliament and the government sent representatives to persuade Christians and Muslims to end the violence. In October 2005, three people were killed during anti-Christian riots in Alexandria after a DVD was distributed that criticized Islamic conversion efforts.

"Egypt is considered a model of national unity and religious tolerance," Mubarak said. "The occurrence of an individual incident or problem cannot disturb the serenity and strength of this relationship between the two elements of the nation."

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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