After the military removal of the Islamist President Muhammad Morsi from the government in 2013, numerous Islamist sit-ins led to sectarian violence resulting in destruction of about 50 churches in Egypt.
Egypt President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has apologised for not finishing the reconstruction work of Christian properties. The engineering unit of the Armed Forces has immediately started cooperating with Coptic authorities to wrap up the pending renovations, religious Coptic figures said.
Fattah al-Sisi pledged to restore the churches while attending Christmas mass at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. Most Coptic Christians support the president.
In October 2013, the Family House Union announced that it aimed at restoring numerous places of worship destroyed and for the purpose had established a bank account to collect funds.
The Family House is an authority launched by Egypt’s Al-Azhar, and all Egyptian churches. The Family House’s mission is to unite Muslim and Christian Egyptians to ease sectarian strife.
Safwat El-Bayadi, the former head of Egypt’s Evangelical Church and a member of the Family House, told Ahram Online that “unfortunately, we only received EGP 9 million and $8,000 since the initiative started, which is a very small amount of money in relation to the damages.”
Restoration work sponsored by the Armed Forces will cost some EGP 200 million ($25.5 million).
“I appreciate so much the president’s promise to continue the restoration process this year,” said Bishop Macarius of Minya in a phone call with Ahram Online.
He also thanked “the Armed Forces for their effort in renovating the churches to return them to the way they were before the attacks, or even better, and also the efforts of the Muslims who protected churches from attacks and provided refuge for their Christian neighbours to save their lives.”
“14 August 2013 marks the worst attacks in the Church’s modern history, as all Christian lives were threatened,” Macarius added.
“They lost their properties in seconds, but thank God despite all the sectarian incidents and discrimination, Christianity in Egypt not only remains, but flourishes.”
Though Christians make up only a small population of Egypt, after the removal of President Morsi, many Islamist groups targeted their anger towards Egyptian Christians. Two large pro-Morsi sit-ins resorted to violence and many churches were set on fire. Some of these churches dated back to the 4th century.
Bishop Pimen of Upper Egypt’s Naqada and Qus villages, who is also the head of the crisis committee of the Coptic
Orthodox Church, said the engineering unit of the Armed Forces has set a three-stage plan to renovate and rebuild the churches, monasteries and other institutions.
“The first stage, which included 20 churches with renovations costing EGP 70 ($8.9) million, and the second stage, which included 21 churches costing EGP 9.5 ($1.2) million, are already finished,” he said. “Now we are working on the third stage, which includes 24 churches at a cost range of EGP 118-125 ($15-16) million.”