A prominent Christian church has been gutted by fire in the town of Shebin el Kom, 60km northwest of Cairo. The blaze started in the afternoon, on 9 September, when the building was locked and empty. It began at the central entrance door and spread inside to damage the church’s interior. People tried to get in to help, but the building was locked. No casualties were reported. One witness stated “It was very frustrating to see the church burning inside and fire tongues coming out of the windows. We just stood there helplessly watching.” By the time the fire brigade arrived, the church was completely gutted, with much of the interior reduced to ashes. Even though the electricity had been switched off before locking the church, police immediately blamed an electrical fault before carrying out an arson investigation. Many local people believe the fire was arson because Muslims had often threatened to firebomb the church.
The congregation have suffered constant harassment since the church re-opened after refurbishment a year ago. Christians have been pestered, insulted and threatened by local Muslims, dirty water has been thrown at them as they walked to church and Qur’an chanting has been played over loudspeakers during services. As the church burned, Muslims nearby were elated and celebrated loudly. This is just the latest example of the terrible persecution that Christians are facing in Egypt, where anti-Christian violence has suddenly escalated, according to the number of reports received recently. • Pray for members of the church, that they may be able to find love and forgiveness for the perpetrators of this crime, and that this attitude will cause those who oppose the church to see Christians in a favorable light. • Pray that Christians in this village will stand strong together and be able to find alternative places to meet together and encourage one another in the Lord.


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