Blaze Guts Coptic Church in Cairo in Latest Blow to Egypt's Christians
A fire at the Church of the Virgin Mary in the Ain Shams district of Cairo earlier today appears to have gutted the structure, Watani International reports (Arabic).
Ain Shams is one of the oldest suburbs of Cairo, and is built on the ancient city of Heliopolis.
At this time there have been no reports on the cause of the fire, whether it was accidental or deliberate.
But the loss of the church is yet another blow to Egypt's embattled Coptic community - the largest Christian population in the Middle East - and will undoubtedly stoke fears of yet another open anti-Christian attack following suicide bombings of churches, killing of Coptic priests and parishioners, and ongoing mob attacks on churches in Upper Egypt.
Recent attacks have seen mobs attacking churches and the homes of Copts in opposition to the opening and use of new churches.
Until a law signed last year, it was virtually impossible for new construction of churches to be approved by the government, and many structures had to operate unlicensed. While the Egyptian government has since approved several hundred church construction applications, thousands more await approval.
Ain Shams has seen several attacks targeting Christians in recent years, and is known as a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood support:
Aug. 2013: 10-year-old Jessie Boulous was shot and killed outside an evangelical church in Ain Shams following a Bible study class. Her killing occurred as Muslim Brotherhood supporters were continuing to stage large protests around Cairo following the removal of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.
Jan. 2014: 23-year-old Ihab Ghattas is shot in the head and killed outside St. George's Coptic Church in Ain Shams following Mass. According to the Maspero Youth Union, Ghattas was helping guard the church from a Muslim Brotherhood protest and was shot by a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.
Feb. 2014: An unidentified policeman was shot and killed while guarding a church in Ain Shams.
March 2014: A mob of Muslim Brotherhood protesters murdered 25-year-old Mary Sameh George, dragging her out of her car, severely mauling her, and then stabbing her to death, when they reportedly spotted a cross hanging from the rearview mirror of her car. She was delivering medicine to a church in Ain Shams.
In August 2013, Muslim Brotherhood supporters waged an extensive arson campaign across Egypt targeting Christian churches, monasteries, Christian-owned businesses and homes. More than 70 churches and monasteries were looted and burned.
I reported here at PJ Media on my trip into Upper Egypt in April 2014 visiting some of the churches that had been burned down by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood made no efforts to hide their complicity in the arson attacks:
I've subsequently reported on my visit to the Boutrousiya Coptic Church beside the main cathedral in Cairo that was targeted by a suicide bombing in December 2016, killing 29 (all but one women and girls):
It remains to be seen if the fire at the Church of the Virgin Mary today will be added to the ever-growing list of attacks targeting Egypt's Coptic community.