Public domain photos for St. Mina's church, one of two churches burnt down Saturday.
Security had to be tightened around churches in a Cairo slum at the beginning of the week following the riots over rumors of a Christian who converted to Islam. The reports turned out to be false, says Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs Canada. "The last reports I saw: 12 were dead, and churches were burnt down. Really, it was started by a group called Salafist."
Musselman explains that "they're an ultra Islamist group, and they're trying to make inroads into Egypt, into the political system." They were held in a firm grip by ousted president Hosni Mubarak's security forces.
The coordination of the rebellion grew over whether or not this was the first play by the Muslim Brotherhood to make a grab for power. Musselman says the two groups don't seem to share the same ideals. "You've got those within the Muslim Brotherhood that are even denouncing this situation. The Salafists are a group that are a small minority within even the more radical Islam--or those that want to see Sharia law [established] and will use violence to do that."
Leaders say that a trial in military court faces 190 people detained in connection with the violence. Even while that might be good news, the Christians in Egypt still feel like easy prey. "The Coptics are feeling like ‘the government's not protecting us.'"
The incident poses a challenge for Egypt's new military rulers in the wake of the Mubarak ouster. "It even seems that the interim government's having a problem trying to figure out what to do, and they've been overwhelmed." Musselman adds that justice will be difficult for the new government to establish, which causes fear. "It's causing a lot of instability [in a region] that's already pretty unstable. But it does give the opportunity for Christian leaders reaching out to their Muslim countrymen.
Although Christians make up just 10-percent of the 80 million people who live in Egypt, they still have a voice that can be heard. Musselman urges prayer because "the church that is under attack, if it's not strong, can fall. On the other hand, for those that are strong in Christ, it will cause them to be strengthened and will also help them to reach out to others with the Gospel and to proclaim the message of peace."