By Raymond Ibrahim – Coptic Solidarity –
Another Coptic Christian church recently “caught fire”—this time, not in Egypt, but Australia.
On Nov. 4, 2023, around 7:30 am, a fire broke out in the rear of the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Marina, located in Penrith, just west of Sydney, Australia.
According to the report, “it is possible that a lit candle near one of the pictures caused the fire to ignite.”
Although no one was hurt, the inferno caused “massive damage to the church and its contents.”
The “irony” here is that there have been so many instances, of late, of churches—and sometimes even of Christians—“accidentally catching fire” in the Middle East in general, Egypt in particular. To the casual observer, surely it must seem that Mideast Christians—especially the Copts—are walking fire hazards, significantly more prone to carelessly causing fires than the average human.
Either that or something else is afoot. Interestingly, whereas Muslim uprisings and the torching of Coptic churches in Egypt—which was common a few years ago—has waned, Coptic churches randomly “catching fire” has increased in recent years. During just one month last year, 11 of them “accidentally” burned.
And in every instance, Egyptian authorities immediately concluded, without any time passing for a real investigation, that the fires were products of faulty wires, leaky gas bottles, and, just as in this most recent example from Australia—lit candles.
Thus, on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, a fire broke out in and “devoured” a Coptic church in the Giza Governorate of Egypt. Authorities blamed it on a small candle atop a votary stand. However, images from the church’s surveillance cameras clearly showed that “the candle ignited suddenly and in an unusual way.”
There is, for the time being, no indication that the recent fire in Australia was caused by arson. Yet could it be possible that this might be part of a new strategy for church-haters—to deviously start fires that are made to appear accidental and not arsonist, including by slipping in “trick candles” near votaries, which are open to the public?
Either that, or one must conclude that Coptic Christians have, for some inexplicable reason, become so much more prone to causing fires inside their churches than all other peoples combined—even though, in reality, they are especially careful with their churches, precisely because they are so few and widely suppressed in Egypt.
Incidentally, if the recent torching of the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Marina in Australia was arsonist, it would hardly be the first time a Coptic church is targeted for burning in the West.