Church Leaders: Government Inertia Sparked Egypt Violence

Priest Criticizes Failure to Enact Law on Building Churches

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ROME, OCT. 10, 2011 ( A peaceful demonstration protesting the burning of a church by Islamist extremists turned violent in Egypt on Sunday, and Church leaders say the true root of the bloodshed is government inertia.

«The real issue at stake is rule of law,» Bishop Antonius Mina of Giza told Vatican Radio today.

The violence caused some two dozen deaths and more than 200 injured.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Greek Melkite Church in Egypt, told Vatican Radio that the violence can be traced to «the government’s failure to enact a law that regulates the building of places of worship, be they churches or mosques, which they promised to do months ago.»

Of those killed, at least 17 were Coptic Christians.

Father Greiche said the demonstration was in protest of an attack on a church in Aswan and the government’s inertia in protecting religious freedom. He reported that the protesters were attacked by armed thugs and then the army intervened; a tank charged the demonstrators, crushing some of them.

«We are accusing the army and the police who used vagabonds, a rabble force of street fighters, to attack the demonstrators,» he told Aid to the Church in Need. «They were armed with swords, sticks and stones — some of them had rifles it seems.

«They did not have to use force. It was a peaceful demonstration.»

Though Sunday’s violence was the worst since Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, Father Greiche said it was not an isolated event.

«People — not just Christians but many Muslims too — are frightened for the future of our country,» he said. «(…) The governor gave the green light for the fundamentalists to burn the church near Aswan. It’s the fourth time in recent months that a church has been burned in this way by Islamists.»

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