Not even being named for the most revered woman in the Koran could spare the site, which had endured in Delga since the 4th or 5th century, AD.
Miracles are rare in modern times. More common is hardship, and plenty befell the churches of Delga. St. George was attacked a number of times and its domes destroyed. An enthusiastic bishop built two minarets only to have the Egyptian police destroy them. More threatening than a persecuting state was the mob. The ancient churches were attacked several times in the past. On July 28, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown. The churches survived that day.
But survival was not destined two weeks later. The army’s violent crackdown on Mohamed Morsi’s supporters in Cairo unleashed a wave of attacks on churches the like of which Copts had not seen in centuries, thus laying waste to examples of a unique byway in the history of architecture, religious structures that are a hybrid of Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Christian Byzantine styles. Dozens of churches were burned and destroyed in the largest attack on Coptic houses of worship since 1321. A complete tally is still to be written. But in its latest report, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt’s best human-rights organization, documents a total of 47 churches attacked, of which 25 were burned, seven looted and destroyed, five partly damaged, and 10 attacked without sustaining heavy damage.
In this maelstrom, the ancient Virgin Mary Church was not spared. In a day of brutality, the people of Delga distinguished themselves. All three of Delga’s Coptic churches were destroyed. So were a Catholic and a Protestant church in the city. In place of Virgin Mary Church, the mob placed a sign: The Martyrs Mosque.
Meanwhile in Nashville, Tennessee, folks wonder why we’ve stopped prosecuting the War on Terror.
And so does the Egyptian Coptic Catholic Patriarch.
With pain, but also with hope, the Catholic Church in Egypt is following what our country is experiencing: terrorist attacks, killings and the burning of churches, schools and state institutions. Therefore, out of love for our country and in solidarity with all lovers of Egypt, Christians and Muslims, we are trying to do our best to communicate with friendly organizations around the world to clarify for them the reality of events taking place in our country. We would like to express the following:
Our free, strong and conscious support for all state institutions, particularly the armed forces and the police for all their efforts in protecting our homeland.
Our appreciation of sincere nations to understand the nature of events while flatly rejecting any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt or to influence its sovereign decisions, whatever the direction might be.
Our thanks to all Egyptian and international media that report the news and events objectively and impartially while condemning those media that promote lies and falsify the truth in order to mislead world public opinion.
Our thanks to our honorable Muslim compatriots who have stood by our side, as far as they could, in defending our churches and our institutions.
Lastly, we address the international conscience and all national leaders that they understand and believe that what is happening in Egypt now is not a political struggle between different factions, but a war against terrorism.
In conclusion, we express our condolences to all families and relatives of the victims. We ask the Lord to heal all the injured.
Patriarch of Alexandria for Coptic Catholics
President of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Egypt