Christians Fear for Lives after Islamists Take Over Town

A Coptic Orthodox priest speaks uncomfortably to a church visitor while hiding from the stares of a bearded Muslim standing outside, who sports a pistol outlined beneath his robe.

The priest was explaining to the visitor how his monastery had been burned by Islamists followed by looting, when they took control of a town in southern Egypt following the July 3 ouster of President Morsi.

The monastery fire burned off and on for over three days, said the priest, while the looting lasted a week. When it ended, not even an electric switch or a wire to connect it to remained.

The monastery housed an underground chapel that is 1,600 years old, which was stripped of ancient artifacts. Looters actually dug the ground up believing they would find treasure there.

Dalga, the town of over 120,000, has 20,000 Christians, and has been outside the control of the government since former President Mohammed Morsi’s hard line supporters drove the police out and took over their station July 3, when Morsi was ousted.

The takeover of the town was just one of many attacks in the province of Minya in southern Egypt, which targeted the local Christians, their businesses and homes.

Since that time, the Islamist radicals have been imposing their grip on the town of Dalga, twice driving back the army’s attempts of sending in armored personnel carriers.

The hold the Islamists have points to how strong hard line Islamists are in southern Egypt even following the removal of Morsi from power.

They are determined to defy the leadership, which is backed by the military.

The military is currently fighting militant insurgency across the Sinai Peninsula, but signs point to the same insurgency problem, taking place across the south and in particular, in the provinces of Assiut and Minya, both of which are strongholds of the Islamists and both home to the two largest Christian communities in Egypt.

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