When the security authorities in Minya, Upper Egypt, recently offered training courses for a number of Church Scouts to help in protecting churches, the offer was courteously but firmly turned down by Anba Macarius, Bishop of Minya and Abu-Qurqas. In a statement, Anba Macarius said: “We thank General Mamdouh Abdel-Munsif, Chief of Minya Security, for his proposal that we nominate a number of our scouts to train on dealing with the special situation of securing worshippers in churches. We really appreciate his zeal.
“However,” Anba Macarius added, “we cannot accept this offer because we may very likely be misunderstood by some who exercise morbid thought and believe the Church stockpiles arms and resorts to aggression. Moreover, the role of the Church Scouts is neither military nor security; but is in the main part organisational, and is based on offering help when needed. The scouting idea was established by Baden-Powell (1857 – 1941), British army officer, writer, and founder of the Scouts Movement.”
Anba Macarius concluded that securing the places of worship was the main responsibility of the police force. There are fears, he said, that once the Church Scouts assume that role they would come under reproach if some sectarian attack occurs, since they are in the first place not the ones who should be confronting it.
Anba Macarius reminded that the Church had once been accused of stockpiling arms. But the massive, nationwide attack by the Muslim Brothers against Egypt’s churches on 14 August 2013 proved conclusively that this was not true. Close to 70 churches were plundered, set ablaze and destroyed. In none of them were any arms found. “Had there been any, shouldn’t this have been the time to use them in defence against the attackers?” Anba Macarius wondered.
“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early,” (Psalms 46:5)
In other places in Egypt, similar offers by local security chiefs to churches were graciously accepted. The logic behind the offer was that the police do not have the capacity to guard each and every church in Egypt adequately all the time without spreading themselves thin. Hence the idea of self-protection for churches. According to Anba Macarius, however, this obviously carries other hazards.