One of the burnt churches in Egypt I visited several times: the evangelical presbyterian Gad al-Sayed church in Abou Hilal in the city of Minya, some 250 km (160 miles) south of Cairo. Last years the pews looked like this:
Now like this:
My youngest brother visited this church as well:
Left on this picture Rev. Sameh Ibrahim, the pastor of this church, who completed his master’s thesis at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo last year, with me as his adviser. Last fall he taught an introduction to the New Testament course at the Minya branch of our seminary and helped me out with the Arabic in the introduction to systematic theology course that I taught there on the same days. This Wednesday he was on his way to Cairo for recordings for a program on the Gospels and we had agreed to have some time of fellowship together at our seminary. When he didn’t show up I was not so surprised at first, given the general situation in the country that day, but then I heard that he had been called home because the church in which he serves was on fire. It felt like a slap in the face. Every church burnt down is one too much, but it hurts even harder when its a good friend’s church that one visited several times, even a few months ago.
Behind the back of Rev. Sameh on the picture, there are shelves with Bibles and hymnals. I’ve been told that the fire-raising gang took special pleasure in setting the Bibles on fire. Below the last page of a burnt hymnal. The readable part is the refrain of an Easter hymn: “Dead where is your sting? . . . The Lord is risen indeed.” By now, this picture circulates widely among Egyptian Christians on Facebook, for mutual encouragement.
The Dutch newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad has published an interview with Rev. Sameh Ibrahim, in which he says among other things:
We are only a small congregation and don’t have the means to build the church again. But we are especially grateful that no persons have been hurt or wounded. In the end the church building is just a building.
He relates that other churches in the neighborhood have been put on fire as well—this was clearly an orchestrated action—, but also that many moslim neighbours have helped to extinguish the fire.
Note: pictures of the church after the fire are from Maro Magdy’s Facebook account, which contains many other pictures of the church as well.