05/27/2011, 00.00
EGYPT
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In Imbaba, army restores Coptic church torched by Salafis

The authorities hope to complete the restoration work in three months. Those who carried out the attack are however still at large. Sources tell AsiaNews that the military are playing both sides, helping the actions of Muslim extremists.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Egypt’s ruling military council is paying for the reconstruction of St Mary’s Coptic Church in Imbaba (Cairo), which was destroyed during clashes between Salafis and Christians on 8 May. Eight people died and 116 were wounded during the incident. However, sources told AsiaNews that the army was itself involved in the original violence. In fact, soldiers tend to do nothing to prevent clashes and allow the culprits to go free.

In the past few days, artisans have been working on the Church roof. The original structure was destroyed by fire. They are also trying to repair damaged frescoes and paintings. Everything should be completed within three months.

Church sources told AsiaNews that what the military is doing is a positive sign that can help avoid more sectarian clashes. However, there are still lingering doubts about the army’s good faith.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is acting like Pontius Pilate,” other Christian sources said. “On the one hand, they are giving a free rein to Muslim extremists; on the other, they are promoting reconciliation by rebuilding destroyed buildings.”

A call for another ‘day of rage’ today in Tahrir Square is raising more suspicions. Small secular groups issue the announcement in order to demand a new constitution and more security in the streets.

For their part, many Christians are afraid that they might suffer more discrimination and restrictions at the hands of Muslims.

“Inside the government, no one is strong enough to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist groups,” one said.

For instance, in Ain Sheim, a neighbourhood in southern Cairo, Muslims reiterated their opposition to the reopening of the St Abraham Coptic Church, scene of sectarian violence on 19 May.

Muslim leaders took the decision during a meeting with the local Christian community that was deserted by the military.

On their own initiative, local Muslim authorities signed a decree that imposes the indefinite closure of the church and bans Copts from conducting any religious celebration.

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