On August 14 dozens of worshippers were killed when a fire broke out in a church located in the Egyptian city of Giza. Around 5,000 people had gathered in the Coptic Abu Siflin church for the Sunday Mass. The injured people were then taken to the nearby hospital. It has been reported that 41 people, including 18 children, a priest, and several old age people, have been killed so far, while dozens have been injured. The deceased children were aged between 3 and 16.
The fire started just before 9 a.m reportedly due to an electrical short circuit. A spokesperson of the Coptic church termed the fire an accident. Father Farid Fahmy, a priest from another church in the neighbourhood, said that the church was using a power generator due to the unavailability of electricity. When the power came back, it caused an overload resulting in the fire. The officials of the Interior Ministry confirmed that the reason behind the blaze was the electrical malfunction in the air conditioning.
The church had several floors where people were seated. According to an attendant of the Mass, the fire broke out from the second floor of the building. A panic ensued with the initiation of the fire. Worshippers rushed toward the exit to save their lives. They started falling on each other during the dash. The entrance of the church was blocked due to the stampede. Many were killed and injured in the stampede. The investigation team found that the cause of death in the majority of the victims was suffocation. They had succumbed to their injuries because of the fire smoke. The ministry said that two officers and three civil protection servicemen got injured while fighting to save the people.
The bodies of the deceased people were brought to another church in the Al-Warraq town. Families and loved ones of the departed reached the venue for the final services. Hundreds of mourners were seen inside the church later that day.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his condolences to the families of the victims. He has announced the renovation of the church and assigned the armed forces to do this task. The prosecutor has said that a team is investigating the cause of the fire.
Popular Egyptian football player Mohamed Salah also sympathised with the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery for the injured ones.
The Coptic Christians are a minority in the Muslim-majority Egypt. They form 90 percent of the 10 million Christians of the country’s 103 million population. In the past, the Copts have been subjected to religious-based violence. The rate of discrimination and persecution surged since 2011. They have been a target of terrorism since the rise of the Islamic State. In 2016, the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral located in Cairo was bombed. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. 29 people were killed as a result. In 2017, 47 people were killed due to the suicide bombings carried out by IS. The Copts also express their grievances regarding marginalized participation and representation in state affairs.