CAIRO — A Muslim mob ransacked and torched seven Christian homes in the Minya province south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after rumors spread that a Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman, according to a statement by the local Orthodox Coptic church.
Released late Wednesday, it said that during the May 20 attack, the mother of the Christian man was publicly stripped of her clothes by the mob to humiliate her. Her son fled the village.
Police arrived at the scene nearly two hours after the attacks began and arrested six people, according to the statement by Minya’s top cleric, Anba Makarios. He said the family of the Christian man had notified the police of threats against them by Muslim villagers the day before the attack.
“No one did anything and the police took no preemptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks,” he told a television interviewer Wednesday night.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people, have long complained of discrimination in the mostly Muslim nation. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in office since 2014, has sought to address some of their grievances, but Christians say they are consistently victimized when in dispute with Muslims.
Criminal gangs have often targeted wealthy Christian families south of Cairo in recent years, kidnapping their children for ransom. There have also been scores of cases in recent years of underage Christian girls lured away from their families by Muslim men who force them to convert and keep them in hiding until they reach adulthood. Christians often complain that police don’t do enough to pursue the Muslim perpetrators.
Makarios also told the television interviewer Wednesday night that the late arrival of the police gave the attackers “ample time” to do what they had set out to do. With uncharacteristic candor, he said that the crisis in the village will most likely be handled through a government-sponsored meeting of the two sides in which the Christians will be forced to accept “humiliating” conditions for reconciliation.
He said there would have hardly been a reaction were it a case of a Muslim man having an affair with a Christian woman. “If that was the case, the Christian response would not have been anything like what happened,” he explained.
“It is a disgrace for honest men to remain silent while accepting, seeing or hearing this.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.