Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The toll from an attack on the Coptic Christian community that took place yesterday in the north-western province of Mersa Matrouh, Egypt is 25 wounded, including women and children. A crowd of around 3 thousand Muslims attacked the faithful gathered in prayer in a building adjoining the local church. The fundamentalists fury, encouraged by the imam, was sparked by the rumour that the Christians have begun to build a new place of worship.
Around 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, the Muslims - a group of Bedouins and Salafi fanatics - started throwing stones at a construction site, which they believe in reality will be a new church. Local witnesses reported that security forces present were not sufficient to contain the attack. The police fired tear gas and arrested a dozen people, including Muslims and Christians. Only this morning, reinforcements arrived from Alexandria, thanks to which the Coptic faithful trapped inside the building could return to their homes.
At the moment of the attack the Christian prayer house contained four priests, one deacon and about 400 parishioners. Christians say that the building under construction, in fact, is a nursing home and said they were "terrified" by the latest attack. The local imam Shaikh Khamees intervention during Friday prayers has helped to foment the anger of Muslims. He emphasized the duty to fight against the "enemies" of Islam and stressed that "we do not tolerate the Christian presence in our area."
Reverend Matta Zakarya confirms that this morning there was a summit between the leaders of the local church, state security forces and even some Muslims. "The Coptic are scared - he stresses - especially women and children who were inside the building and witnessed the assault."
In Egypt, the Coptic Christian community is about 10% of the population in a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority, which discriminates against the Christian community. It is the victim of violence, caused by a sharp rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Sometimes the basis of many attacks there are disputes over land ownership and disputes for women, but they soon become sectarian clashes.