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A fire-damaged Egyptian church, one
of many attacked by Muslim militants.
Photo: Barnabas Aid

In the early hours of July 16th, flames and smoke engulfed the only church building in the Egyptian village of Al-Madamoud, which is located east of Luxor. Before firefighters arrived, in a spirit of cooperation not typically witnessed in Egypt (where many churches have been destroyed by militants), Muslim and Christian villagers worked together to extinguish the blaze.

Despite their efforts, the whole interior of the building was destroyed. The next morning, Safwat Samaan, the director of the human rights group Nation Without Borders, was able to visit the scene. Members of the congregation crowded into the blackened shell of the building with great sadness over the devastation. "It broke my heart to see old men, eyes full of tears, and women wailing," he reports.

Members of the congregation are now concerned that local authorities will claim the fire was merely accidental, which has been the case of so many other church building fires. This was the ruling involving a church within Luxor that caught fire on April 20th under mysterious circumstances.

Authorities claimed that the Luxor fire was the result of either unattended candles or a short in a wire -- even though there was no evidence of candles, and a church attendant had turned off the main electrical line to the building. Similarities between the fires of the burned churches indicate the possibility that a serial arsonist may be targeting churches in the Luxor area.

As the congregants of these destroyed churches now deal with the devastating loss of their cherished places of worship, pray that God's comfort, peace, strength and grace...will be tangibly experienced in their lives. May their heavy hearts be uplifted over the fact that they can worship Jesus anywhere, and not even the loss of their buildings can stop them. As the Lord directs them with the rebuilding of their churches, pray that He will also build up their faith -- so that their mission in reaching others of the community will be strong and effective. This includes their ministry to the individual(s) who may be responsible for the fires.