The Chinese saying "A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with One Step," is used to encourage a person to embark on a prosperous but seemingly impossible task. However, in the current situation in Egypt the saying applies negatively in the attempt of the Muslim extremists, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government, the Salafists and other equally vicious and violent hooligans to de-Christianize Egypt.
A huge fire broke out late Sunday night in the church of the Virgin Mary in Tema, Sohag [Upper Egypt], and resulted in significant losses in the church building due to fire trucks’ delayed arrival.
The fire also destroyed some houses neighboring the church.
All attempts by citizens to control the fire, which caused some injuries from severe smoke inhalation, failed.
The fire’s cause has yet to be determined.
Police and the criminal investigation department moved to the scene to inspect the site after the fire was extinguished on Monday. An accurate estimate of losses has not been carried out so far due to power outage.
The incident has not resulted in deaths and the number of injured people, either those who received treatment on-site or those who were transferred to the hospital as a result of smoke inhalation or burns, has not been determined yet.
For his part, Fr. Paul Samaan, priest of the church, said he received a telephone call from Copts near the church on the outbreak of fire at 11.30 p.m. on Sunday.
“The fire was huge, as the flames rapidly devoured the wooden roofs and furniture of the church, which dates back to 1935,” Fr. Samaan said in exclusive remarks to MCN.
“The church is an ancient two-story building with some adjacent buildings for services. This resulted in heavy losses to the church’s building.”
According to Fr. Samaan, eight fire trucks arrived at the scene to control the blaze, which moved to the homes adjacent to the church, which are mostly inhabited by Copts. Although the trucks arrived late, the fighters managed to control the fire by Monday morning.
He added that the fire broke out on all sides of the church at once.
Fr. Samaan said they obtained a preliminary approval before the revolution to rebuild the church, but this approval was suspended after the 25 January. He pointed out that they have been trying to obtain a license to rebuild the church but to no avail.
Losses have not been fully estimated due to the smoke continuing to rise from the building. The number of homes affected by the fire has not also been calculated.
Fr. Samaan met with security agencies at 4.30 a.m. to find out the reasons behind the fire and discuss the implications of the situation.
It is worth mentioning that a flyer was distributed in Tema on 19 December 2012, which threatened the death of Christians and burning of churches.
The leaflet read: “To the Crusaders of Tema and sons of the traitor (Pope) Tawadros, you who announced war on Islam and began with insulting the Prophet. You conspired against the Islamic president and mobilized people to prevent the application of Sharia and the repeal of Article II. Therefore, your churches, monasteries and priests will be a target to our attacks in case we discover these churches or any Christian schools are built without licenses, or if any Christian disdains the divine majesty, Prophet Muhammad, his Companions or the Islamic sanctities.”
It is important to note that such accidents have increased in recent month where churches in Egypt get burnt by mobs or "accidentally due to unknown reasons."
Accusations of blasphemy, a criminal offense under Egypt's new Islamist-backed constitution, have been leveled more frequently against writers, activists, and Christians in recent months.
The pale, young Christian woman sat handcuffed in the courtroom, accused of insulting Islam while teaching history of religions to fourth-graders. A team of Islamist lawyers with long beards sang in unison, "All except the Prophet Muhammad."
When it comes to the news, it seems like ecumenical efforts directed at restoring full Christian communion are taking place under the radar. Even so, I suspect it is a sleeping giant, for when unification is achieved, all of heaven will rejoice and the world will change.
The escalation of Muslim attacks on Christian churches in Egypt continues unabated. This week two attacks were carried out, one in Alexandria and one in Menbal in Upper Egypt -- both allegedly prompted by harassment of Muslim women.
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