Maspero Massacre: Egypt's Christians Cry for Justice

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CAIRO, Egypt - The Maspero Massacre was an event that has discouraged Egyptian Christians perhaps like no other in recent years.

Coptics had gathered in Cairo Sunday evening, Oct. 9, to protest the destruction of a church near Aswan.

Maged Fahim said his father, Magdy, joined those marching from the Shoubra neighborhood to the national television station at Maspero Square.

"Every time there is an incident, a church burned or attacked, nothing happens about it, no one is charged, no one is arrested. And this was bothering my father because he thought it was not fair," Fahim explained. "He believed some people had to pay for what they have done to the churches and to the Christians in Egypt."

A Father's Faith

Magdy Fahim was retired from his job at the American University Library. Maged said his father was a man of practical faith who often gathered the family together to read the Bible.

"He was teaching us to read it every day and to see what God is telling us and to hear the Voice," Maged recalled.

"'God does not want us to praise him by tongue; he wants our heart,' our father told us," he said. "I saw him every day writing the same verse from the Bible: God is my light and salvation, so whom shall I fear?"

Fearless, Magdy -- along with 10,000 other Christians -- proceeded past hostile Muslim crowds, toward Maspero.

"They were attacked by the tanks of the army, and he was hit with the army sticks they had," Maged said.

One week later, Magdy -- the devout Christian librarian -- died from a brain hemorrhage caused by repeated blows to his head.

The Maspero Massacre

In all, 27 Christians were killed as a result of the Maspero incident. Fourteen of them, including Michael Toufic, were crushed by military armored vehicles.

Mary and Monira Toufic told CBN News they learned about their brother's death as they watched the Maspero events unfold on national television.

Mary said the family didn't believe the news when a TV anchor reported that Michael was one those killed. They called the station and confirmed that his body had been positively identified.

Both women said they couldn't believe that such a thing happened to their brother.
 
"Every night I cry so hard because I miss him so much," Mary told CBN News.

Michael Issa's father, Abraham, was also killed. He explained that his dad had felt compelled to attend the Christian demonstration at Maspero even though he wasn't a big supporter of rallies and demonstrations.

"He said we should rally in front of our Lord and Saviour instead of demonstrating in front of people," Issa said. "Do that each day and see what happens."

"I lost a spiritual father, a friend who led me through life," he continued. "The only comfort I would have would be to see God's glory and change come to Egypt."

Darker Times Ahead

But change in attitudes may not come anytime soon.

Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the Egyptian Army is not a professional one. Rather, it's made up of conscripts who share the general population's prejudice against Christians.

Tadros told CBN News of how one soldier made a shocking pronouncement as troops boarded the bus to return to their barracks:

"One of the soldiers comes out of a window of the bus and proclaims to the Muslim onlookers that have gathered, 'I have shot him in the chest!' he shouts. 'I have shot him in the chest!'" he said.

"And the Muslim onlookers all clap and applaud him and one of them tells him, 'By God, you are a man!'" he said.

Three soldiers who drove armored vehicles into the crowd were arrested by the Egyptian Army. They are scheduled to be put on trial next month on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

But Tadros and other Egyptian Christians say an independent investigation is needed.

Bloodshed in the Streets

Meanwhile, a Christian men's group gathers regularly at Cairo's Cave Church to pray for their families and to ask God to bring peace to their nation.

The injustice of the Maspero Massacre and ongoing attacks against their churches weigh heavy on their hearts and on those of most Egyptian Christians.

Many say the future doesn't look bright, and they don't think a new government will be able to protect them from the army or persecution from Islamists. 

Coptic activist priest Father Philopateer attended many rallies and protests in Cairo last year. He also witnessed the killings at Maspero.

He said that Egyptians haven't seen any constructive response from the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamists about the burning, or destruction of  churches.

"They didn't care about the bloodshed in the streets," he explained. "All their focus was about the elections, and that's a betrayal of the Egyptian Revolution."

'Used to Martyrdom'

Philopateer said most Egyptians doubt the Muslim Brotherhood will honor its campaign pledge to protect minority rights. He said members of Egypt's Coptic Church have no illusions about what may come.

"Copts are used to martyrdom. We gave plenty during Mubarak's time and now during the military council's rule," he said. "And we are expecting more martyrs during the rule of the Brotherhood."

Maged Fahim said his faith has grown stronger since his father's tragic death. He said he sees God at work despite the tragedy at Maspero.

"He is keeping something good for us and for Egypt," he said. "But we have to pay the price and we are doing this now. "

--Originally aired January 12, 2012.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

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