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By Raymond Ibrahim – Coptic Solidarity –

Yet another Coptic church recently “caught fire” in Muslim Egypt.

On Sunday, Mar. 24, 2024, a fire broke out in the Church of St. George in Akhmim, Sohag governorate. With the help of church youth and locals, civil authorities managed to quench the blaze. 

Mass was held in the church earlier that day, and the building was empty when the conflagration began. As a result, no one was hurt.  The fire did, however, destroy the structure, air conditioning units, pews, icons and electrical appliances of the second floor.

Initial reporting said the cause of fire was unknown.

Although it could have been—and likely will be officially deemed—an “accident,” there are several reasons to suspect arson.

For starters, arson attacks on churches in Egypt are commonplace.  According to one researcher, Magdi Khalil, “close to one thousand churches have been attacked or torched by mobs in the last five decades [since the 1970s] in Egypt.” 

More recently, churches continue to burn, though these are increasingly being dismissed as accidents—including 11 churches that mysteriously “caught fire” in one month alone (Aug. 2022). It’s worth noting that “accidental” fires in mosques in Egypt—which outnumber churches by a ratio of 40 to 1—are almost unheard of.

Either the “radicals” have become more sophisticated and clandestine in their attacks on churches—in one instance, surveillance cameras caught a votary candle suddenly and randomly exploding and creating a fire—or else 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 and under attack in Egypt.

Sohag governorate, it’s worth adding, is also another hotbed (along with Minya) of anti-church and anti-Christian activities—that is, another hotbed of “radicalism.”  The following are some of the many other incidents to occur in that Egyptian governorate:

  • Muslims have on several occasions risen in violence against Christians on the mere rumor that a church was being built.
  • After burning their temporary worship tent, Christians were forced to celebrate one Easter in the streets (pictures here).
  • A Muslim man randomly attacked and killed a Christian with a meat cleaver.
  • Coptic girls have “disappeared” off the streets with police shrugging their shoulders.
  • Christians have been abducted and held for ransom—and sometimes still killed after their ransom was payed.
  • A school principal in Sohag openly refused the enrollment of Christian students, unabashedly declaring that “As long as I am present in the school, no Christian pupils will be accepted in this school.”

As such, Egypt’s Christians might be excused for suspecting foul play in this, the latest torching of one of their churches.  

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