Cairo. 19 November 2003. (BF) The Egyptian Army has once again carried out a totally unprovoked attack on the Patmos Christian Center 30km to the east of Cairo. Just after midnight in the early hours of Tuesday 18 November an army dump truck was driven repeatedly into the perimeter wall surrounding the Patmos Christian Center.
This is the eighth attack on the center 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 meters from the Cairo-Suez road. The wall stands 50 meters from the road and was built ten years ago in full accordance with the law at the time.
Workers at the center point out that the local army barracks' own walls also stand 50 meters 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 meters from the road. Likewise no attempts have been made to demolish any of these buildings.
Church leaders say that the Minister of Defense, who has been opposed to the center since 1997, ordered extreme and conservative Muslim officers from the local army unit to enforce the law on the Patmos Center. They believe the repeated attacks are a result of anti-Christian prejudice amongst Muslim officers rather than a simple disagreement over building regulations. On the other hand other government representatives, including the President's office and the Ministry of the Interior, have intervened positively in the past to protect the center 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, and is legally registered with the Egyptian authorities. It receives between 500 - 1000 visitors every day.