27 February 2011
As the 25 January revolution fanned out throughout Egyptian towns, and with the Interior Ministry security forces weakened, several prisons were attacked and the prisoners set free. The security forces withdrew in an attempt to rebuild their ranks and the army stepped in. The last week of January thus witnessed widespread terror as thugs and escaped prisoners attacked people and property.
The remote 4th century Anba Pola (St Paul’s) monastery in the Eastern Desert was victim of attempts to break into it by escaped prisoners who were able to reach it through the dry mountain passes. The monks caught one prisoner and handed him over to the authorities. When they asked for the protection of the armed forces they were asked to do what they could to protect themselves until the army could afford them protection.
The monks built an iron gate at the entry of the pathway to the monastery and took it in turns to go on duty as sentinels.
Earlier this month, the army sent a bulldozer to pull down the gate. The monks succeeded in negotiating a postponement of the demolition, and called upon the leadership of the Armed Forces to protect them in these turbulent times by taking over control of the gate instead of pulling it down. Last Sunday, however, the three monks holding guard at the gate were tied up and the gate pulled down.