As promised by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian Armed Forces are already working on restoring or rebuilding churches destroyed by the Muslim Brothers (MB) and their supporters on 14 August 2013, in the wake of the overthrow of the Islamist MB regime that came to power in 2012 following the 2011 Arab Spring.
Back then, the MB assaulted, looted, and torched some 100 churches and Christian establishments nationwide, including an orphanage in Minya, as well as some 150 homes, businesses, property, or fields owned by Copts.
In 2012, the Armed Forces promised to repair and restore the ruined churches and buildings, but have so far been able to do so in only a handful of cases. On Christmas Eve 2016, President Sisi promised—this time it was a promise he personally pledged to honour—that the Armed Forces would do all the repairs and restorations during 2016. “It’s not a favour,” he said. “We owe this to you.”
Church does its bit
Anba Pimen, Bishop of Qous and Naqada and Head of the Crises Committee in the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said that the army has rebuilt and restored 10 of the ruined churches. “The Church,” Anba Pimen said, “has already restored 15 churches with private funds in order to ease the load on the Armed Forces. But there are still 52 churches that await restoration, since the scale of ruin they incurred is far above our ability to restore them.”
The Armed Forces recently handed the Coptic Church the newly restored church of Mar-Girgis and Abu-Seifein in the village of Belhassa in Maghagha, Minya, in Upper Egypt, and have started construction work on the church of Anba Moussa al-Aswad (St Moses the Black) in Minya. Anba Macarius, Bishop-General of Minya, told Watani that the work will involve the demolition and rebuilding of the church. The congregation had been using the torched ground floor of the church for prayers and services, he said, and is now elated that it will be rebuilt. He said the army will also demolish and rebuild the building in Minya that was once an orphanage but, now that the children have been housed in alternative quarters, the Church will use the new building for a hospital.
The church of al-Amir Tadros and the St Joseph and Jesuit schools in Minya have already been renovated and handed over to the Church and the establishments in charge of them.
The first community service building attacked by the Islamists was the one owned and operated by the Coptic Catholic Church in the Minya village of Dalga in Deir Mawwas, which was attacked twice, on 4 and 14 August 2013. Now the Armed Forces have inspected the ruined building and decided to demolish and rebuild it.
Kirdassa and Suez
Work is also ongoing to restore the heavily damaged church of Anba Abra’am at the monastery of the Holy Virgin in Dalga. This church and its grounds were not only destroyed in August 2013, but were also desecrated and subjected to threats to use the ground to build a mosque upon.
Also in Minya, the Armed Forces will be working on the Evangelical church in Beni Mazar. They had already restored and handed over the Evangelical churches in Manshaat Badini in Samalout, Minya last May, as well as the churches in Mallawi, Minya, and in Assiut further south, some 350km south of Cairo.
This week should see restoration work start on two churches in Giza, the church of the Archangel Michael in Kirdassa and that of the Holy Virgin in Kafr Hakim. A community centre building in the vicinity of Archangel Michael’s will be demolished and rebuilt.
In Suez, the Armed Forces have also started work to restore the Franciscan church that was destroyed in August 2013. Father Gabriel Hannallah told Watani that the Franciscans had already restored the monk’s quarters and the guesthouse, but could not work on the church.
In the governorate of Fayoum some 100km southwest Cairo, the Armed Forces are working to restore and renovate five churches, four Coptic Orthodox ones and an Evangelical church. The churches under restoration are the church of the Holy Virgin in the village of al-Nazla, the church of al-Amir Tadros in the village of Desia, St Demiana’s in al-Zerbi in Tamiya, and the Evangelical church in al-Zerbi, as well as the headquarters of the Friends of the Holy Bible Society in Fayoum city. The Deputy of Fayoum Bishopric, Father Mikhail Astrass told Watani that with the restoration of these churches in addition to the church of the al-Amir Tadros in the village of al-Nazla, all the churches that were destroyed in August 2013 would have been renovated. He warmly thanked President Sisi and the Egyptian Armed Forces for their efforts.
27 January 2016