JERUSALEM, Israel – Tensions are running high in the Egyptian village of Barsha after a mob of radical Muslims attacked local Christians over allegations that a Coptic Christian man posted a comment on his Facebook page they deemed insulting to Islam.
The violence broke out on the evening of Nov. 25 when hundreds of radical Muslim men from Barsha and nearby villages began attacking Christian property with clubs, bricks, and Molotov cocktails, according to reports from Christian persecution watchdog groups. An elderly woman was hospitalized for burns suffered in her home, Independent Catholic News reported.
Click above to see video of the mob burning Christian property
When the mob attempted to attack the home of the Christian man accused of posting the Facebook comment, his moderate Muslim neighbor stepped in. The neighbor hid the man and his family in his own home and protected them from the violent mob.
The angry crowd also attempted to break into the Abu-Siefeen Coptic Orthodox church where Christians were worshipping that evening. The parishioners locked themselves inside until local police arrived and used tear gas to disperse the rioters.
Later, Major General Mahmoud Khalil held a meeting with the village’s senators, elders, and Muslim and Coptic clergy. He asked them to urge Barsha’s young people to stop rioting or there will be consequences.
General Osama Al Qadi, Governor of the Minya Province, also called a meeting with a delegation of local leaders to put an end to the sectarian attacks.
During the meeting between Muslim and Christian leaders, he said actions will be taken against "anyone who offends others,” and said, “no one will be allowed to sow discord between people who belong to the same nation". He also asked Muslim religious leaders to preach on tolerance and peace, ICN reported.
Despite the calls for peace, radicals again attacked the properties of local Christians on Nov. 29.
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Christian watchdog groups say Christians in Barsha are still facing threats of violence. International Christian Concern reported on Tuesday that now local radical Muslims are calling for the boycott of commercial Christian goods in the village.
Scot Bower, CEO of the UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, is calling on the Egyptian government to “do far more to combat sectarian violence and bring an end to the culture of collective punishment.”
“This incident must be thoroughly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice,” he said in a statement. “The societal hostility underpinning sectarian discord, which facilitates frequent outbreaks of violence in the area, must also be addressed. We encourage the Egyptian authorities to engage positively with human rights organizations to promote religious diversity and equality of citizenship through civic engagement and education.”
Open Doors International ranks Egypt as the 16th most dangerous place to be a Christian.
“Many Egyptian Christians encounter substantial roadblocks to living out their faith,” it says. “There are violent attacks that make news headlines around the world, but there are also quieter, more subtle forms of duress that burden Egyptian believers. Particularly in rural areas in northern Egypt, Christians have been chased from villages, and subject to mob violence and intense familial and community pressure. This is even more pronounced for Christians who are converts from Islam.”