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LONDON – Egyptian police must act more quickly against Muslim rioters, a Catholic bishop said after 12 people were killed and two churches burned in a night of violence.
Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza said Egypt would descend into anarchy if such acts were allowed to go unpunished.
“The police need to say clearly to those who have done this: ‘You cannot do this. It is not allowed,’” he said in a May 9 telephone interview with the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians.
“Without action from the police and the army, it will be chaos,” he said.
“We cannot make peace and reconciliation without first bringing people to justice,” he added.
Bishop Mina’s remarks followed violence in Cairo on May 7 triggered by claims that a Christian woman who wanted to convert to Islam was being held against her will in the Orthodox Church of St Mina in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba. Four imams were allowed into the church but could find no one held there.
However, a mob of about 500 Salafi Muslims massed outside the church before attacking it at about 5 pm. The Salafis are a Muslim sect dedicated to the spread of what they believe is traditional, Orthodox Islam, including in the political life of predominantly Muslim countries.
At about 5.30 pm, the mob began shooting at Christians, and beginning at 7 pm, firebombs were thrown at their homes, shops and cars. The mob also attacked the nearby Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, according to reports. Christians responded by hurling glass and stones at their assailants.
The army did not take control of the situation until after 10 pm, when it sealed off access roads to Christian areas and churches.
One Orthodox priest said that about six police officers arrived earlier but fled when they saw the protesters firing live ammunition.
Seven Christians and five Muslims were reported killed, and more than 200 others, mostly Christians, were injured.
The Egyptian army has said that 190 people were arrested and will face military trials. The military is also reported to have increased security around churches in Cairo. - CNS