“Today beginning at 11.30am local time the Egyptian army subjected the Patmos Christian Centre to an hour long attack. Five hundred soldiers descended upon the centre, 30km to the east of Cairo, accompanied by two bulldozers. They blocked the entrance to the compound with a large pile of stones and rubble and then they destroyed seven metres of adjoining wall. Those working at the centre rushed out en masse to prevent the army from coming onto their property. Soldiers threw stones and bottles at the protestors. In the mÃªlÃ©e a bus ploughed into a crowd who were surrounding Bishop Botros who heads the centre. The Bishop was not among those injured, but one staff member, Kirilos Daoud, was killed. Seven people are currently in hospital, one in a critical condition. The police have tried to find the bus driver, but the army appear to have taken him away. Also injured was a nun who was beaten by soldiers.
“This is the ninth attack on the centre in the past six and a half years. Soldiers from the local army unit are seeking to destroy the wall supposedly in order to conform to a new law passed on 25 January 2003 which requires all buildings to be at least 100 metres from the Cairo-Suez road. The wall stands 50 metres from the road and was built ten years ago in full accordance with the law at the time.
“Workers at the centre point out that the local army barracks” own walls also stand 50 metres from the road and no attempt has been made to demolish these. Similarly many other buildings in the area are much closer to the road, including some 15 mosques which stand only 5 — 10 metres from the road. Likewise no attempts have been made to demolish any of these buildings.
“Church leaders say that the Minister of Defence, who has been opposed to the centre since 1997, ordered extreme and conservative Muslim officers from the local army unit to enforce the law on the Patmos Centre. They believe the repeated attacks are a result of anti-Christian prejudice amongst Muslim officers rather than a simple disagreement over building regulations. Other government representatives, including the President’s office and the Ministry of the Interior, have intervened positively in the past to protect the centre from intimidation and attacks by the military.
“The Patmos Centre has been serving the local community in Egypt for fifteen years. The centre is providing care and support for mentally and physically handicapped children and orphans. The centre is legally registered with the Egyptian authorities. It receives between 500 — 1000 visitors every day.”