Deadly shootings at Coptic church set region on edge

By January 8, 2010

Egypt (MNN) — Tensions are at breaking point in Naga
Hamady, a small town in southern Egypt, after a deadly drive-by shooting. It happened as churchgoers left midnight mass
to usher in the Coptic Christmas on January 7.  

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says, "Automatic
weapons fire went into the crowd leaving the church. There are leads, but there
hasn't been anybody arrested."  

Seven people died in what appears to be a retaliation
incident. Nettleton explains, "Apparently,
the church and the leader of the church had been threatened in recent days,
stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a Muslim girl by a Coptic Christian

Following the
reported rape in November, there were five days of riots in the town, with
Christian properties targeted.  On Thursday, thousands clashed with police
during a funeral procession. Earlier,  protesters pelted police
with rocks and damaged cars and stores.

After the burials, an
angry Coptic mob began smashing shop windows, chasing Muslims off the streets
and bringing down street light poles.

Authorities know at least one of the persons in the
shooting but have made no arrests. Coptic Christians, roughly a tenth of Egypt's 80 million population, have complained of harassment and
discrimination.  Further, there's a
feeling that the government gives
preference to Muslims and that Christians are treated as second-class citizens.

The potential for more deadly violence is very likely. Pray
that peace will be restored. Pray also for justice.  Without it, the churches won't be able to share the hope of Jesus Christ with their communities.

Nettleton says if this issue is dealt with
swiftly, "That will go a long way toward making the Christians, as well
as the Muslims, feel safe and feel like this problem is being handled, and
(that) there's not a need for this sort of 'back and forth' that seems to be
what's going on right now."

Pray that the ministry of churches in Egypt will continue
and that the Gospel will be preached throughout this nation.


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