|Christian leaders in Jerusalem pray for end of violence in Egypt|
Catholic News Service photo
An altar girl receives Communion from Msgr. Philip Najim during Mass at the Chaldean Catholic Basilica Our Lady of Fatima in Cairo Aug. 18. Christians, making up 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million people, have coexisted with the majority Sunni Muslims for centuries. Violence erupted periodically, especially in the impoverished south, but the attacks on churches and Christian properties in the last week were the worst in years.
Catholic News ServiceVATICAN CITY — Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran leaders in Jerusalem prayed for an end to violence and bloodshed in Egypt and the protection of the values of "democracy, dignity and religious freedom."
Thirteen patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem issued a statement Aug. 21 expressing their concern for "the dreadful situation" and the desecration of Christian churches in Egypt.
The country, they said, was suffering from "internal divisions, deliberate violence and terroristic acts against innocent people, both Muslims and Christians."
After Egyptian police and the military broke up camps of demonstrators protesting the ouster in July of President Mohammed Morsi, more demonstrations and violent attacks on Christian churches, schools and places of business began.
"The desecration and burning of churches is an unprecedented scandal and goes against the values of tolerance, lived in Egypt for centuries," the Christian leaders of Jerusalem said.
The leaders thanked Egyptian Muslims who "stood by the side of Christians in defending churches and institutions" in late August and they condemned all "acts of vandalism carried out by some extremists."
They called upon "all parties to stop violence and killing and to work toward national unity, without which Egypt will risk a civil war."
The church leaders asked the international community "to stand against violence and terrorism, to help the people of Egypt to overcome this cycle of violence and bloodshed, and to help to get the country back on track," and they prayed that God would "enlighten the Egyptian leaders to save the values of democracy, dignity and religious freedom."