The church of Anba Moussa al-Asswad, St Moses the Black, in Minya some 250km south of Cairo, has been notorious for the sheer scale of destruction wrought on it by Islamist terrorists on 14 August 2013. In fact, some of the most widely-circulated photographs of the ruinous outcome of the synchronised nationwide terror attack waged by the Islamists against the Copts at that time came from Anba Moussa’s. And some of the famous photographs that showed the Copts, resilient and undefeated, later worshipping among the ruins of their churches, were shot there. Now, Anba Moussa al-Asswad’s has been fully restored and will see Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve—Copts celebrate Christmas on 7 January—celebrated there.
Anba Macarius, Bishop-General of Minya and Abu-Qurqas, will open the newly-restored church of Anba Moussa al-Asswad on Sunday 5 January 2020. The opening will be attended by State and military officials, representatives of the various Churches in Egypt, clergy and congregation.
The restoration and opening of Anba Moussa’s marks the completion of the repair, restoration, and in some cases rebuilding work executed by the Egyptian Armed Forces on all 84 churches and Church-affiliated buildings destroyed by the Muslim Brothers (MB) in a nationwide terror attack on 14 August 2013.
The Islamist terror against Egyptians in general and Copts in specific, however, goes back much earlier than August 2013. The Islamist MB regime had come to power in Egypt in 2012, an outcome of the 2011 Arab Spring. But Egyptians, the majority of whom are moderate Muslims, did not take kindly to the fundamental, non-democratic practices of the MB; rebellion against them mounted and culminated in a massive 30 million strong revolution on 30 June 2013. The Egyptian army stepped in and backed the masses to avoid civil war; the Islamists were overthrown on 3 July 2013 and replaced by an interim secular regime.
In retaliation, the MB conducted terror operations against the army, police, and civilians in Egypt. The Copts came in for more than their fair share especially when, on 14 August 2013, the police disbanded the five-week-long Islamist sit-ins at the Cairo squares of Rabea al-Adawiya in the east of the city and al-Nahda in the west. The sit-ins had become a scourge for the local residents, and spearheads for daily violence against the police and civilians.
Once the disbanding operation started in Cairo, a string of synchronized, nationwide attacks began against Copts. The MB and their supporters assaulted, looted, destroyed, and torched 84 churches, and some 150 schools, businesses, homes, fields, and even an orphanage in Minya. A full report of the carnage can be found under the title “Avalanche of hate” at https://en.wataninet.com/egypt-arab-spring/egypt-post-30-june/avalanche-of-hate/1292/
Despite the trauma, pain, and loss, Copts uncomplainingly sustained the outcome of the terror. They instinctively realised that this time they were being targeted not because of their Christian faith but because attacking them would effectively divide and inflame Egypt if they start protesting. So they kept their mouths shut; Pope Tawadros’s only comment was: “It’s a sacrifice we willingly offer Egypt. A homeland without churches is better than churches and a homeland lost to us.”
The Egyptian Armed Forces took it upon themselves to repair and restore the damaged churches. In this they collaborated with the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod’s Crisis Committee, headed by Anba Pimen, Bishop of Qous and Naqada; and high-ranking representatives of the Catholic and Evangelical Churches in Egypt. The Armed Forces would fully restore the buildings from outside and inside to the highest standard, but icons and Coptic ornamentation would be handled by the Churches.
By 2015, however, only a handful of churches had been restored. On Christmas Eve 2016, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi promised—this time it was a promise he personally pledged to honour—that the Armed Forces would speed up all the repairs and restorations. “We’re doing you no favour,” he told the Copts as he wished them a Happy Christmas. “We owe this to you.” [https://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/sectarian/armed-forces-restore-churches-as-promised/15591/]
31 December 2019