By Stan Friedman
CAIRO, EGYPT (August 16, 2013) – Sameh Maurice, pastor of the largest Evangelical church in the Middle East and a speaker at the Covenant’s Midwinter Conference, earlier this year asked denomination members to pray to stop the violence that has destroyed churches across the country, forced his to close, and put his life in danger.
“The situation here is escalating and very sobering and we need more people standing with us in this hour both in understanding the actual events taking place, as well as in prayer,” said Maurice, who pastors Kasr Al-Dobara Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church.
The church is located in the vicinity of Tahrir Square in Cairo and has an attendance of 7,000. It became known as the “Church of Liberation” during the revolution of 2011.
The church’s pastoral and youth leaders were involved early on, and the congregation set up a makeshift hospital that treated people wounded in skirmishes. It also was the first to hold a commemorative service to honor the families of the people who died, whether they were Muslim or Christian.
A member of Maurice’s prayer team also wrote today, “While I’m writing this email to you, we are receiving news and messages from our friends in Malawi, a city in El Menia province in Southern Egypt with a huge Christian population, that after they burned the Catholic church and three Christian schools, they moved to the Evangelical church and actually burned it. They are continuing to attack, burning and loot Christian homes.”
The exact number of churches that have been attacked is unclear but multiple reports have cited at least 50 in cities that include Cairo and Alexandria. Many have been destroyed.
Although the attacks are being blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalist groups, Maurice emphasized that many Muslims opposed the violence as well as any outside intervention. “Moderate Muslims and Christians are united together as never before and they refuse and reject any foreign interference in Egypt,” Maurice said
In a blog post on Friday, Ramez Atallah, the general director of the Egyptian Bible Society said that two of its bookstores in southern Egypt were set ablaze and destroyed. The attacks were in the two largest cities in Southern Egypt, Assyut and Minya.
“The attackers demolished the metal doors protecting the bookshops, broke the store windows behind them, and set the bookshops on fire,” he said.
No one was injured in the attacks because the society had kept its employees home.
“One of the reasons why the government has been so reticent in dispersing the sit-ins was precisely because of the Muslim Brotherhood’s many threats of retaliation. So most Egyptians expected the violence.
“Nevertheless, it is heartbreaking to watch on TV this bloodshed between fellow-Egyptians unfolding before our eyes.”
To watch a video of Maurice speaking at the Midwinter Conference, click here.