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Egyptian pastor says Christians ready to sacrifice their lives for freedom

An Egyptian pastor has told Premier that Christians in Egypt feel 'alone' and that the UK government isn't doing enough to support them as they face further attacks from pro-Morsi supporters. 

Sameh Maurice from one of the largest churches in the country also accuses David Cameron and MPs of being against believers and the faith while protecting the Muslim Brotherhood. 

He's speaking out after seeing tens of churches torched and looted after violence began following attempts by security forces to clear out protest camps of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Pastor Sameh Maurice, from Kasr el Dobara Evangelical Church in Tahir Square in Cairo, told Premier's News Hour he doesn't understand why the government isn't doing more:

Lord Alton is a Christian cross-bench member of the House of Lords and the Honorary President of the UK Copts Association. Premier asked him what action he'd like to see from the Government:

The Foreign Office has responded to the comments by Pastor Sameh.

A spokesperson said:

"The Foreign Secretary has made clear his deep concern at the escalating violence and unrest in Egypt, and regrets the loss of life on all sides.

"Yesterday we called in the Egyptian Ambassador to express our deep concern at the escalating violence. 

"Simon Gass, the FCO Political Director, condemned the use of force to clear the protests and urged the Egyptian authorities to act with restraint.

"The UK has been closely involved in intensive diplomatic efforts over the last month, directed at reaching a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

"Leaders on all sides must work to reduce the risk of further violence and renewed efforts to de-escalate the current situation are urgently needed."

Meanwhile, the death toll since the clashes began on Wednesday has passed 600, and a state of emergency and curfew are in effect.

State media is reporting that a police officer died following an armed attack at a checkpoint in Cairo, where the army has been deployed to guard "important and vital facilities".

And there has been more violence today as hundreds gathered at a mosque in Ramses Square after the Muslim Brotherhood appealed to its supporters to demonstrate after Friday prayers in a "march of anger". Pastor Sameh also told Premier's News Hour Christians won't be able to worship together on Sunday:

It's believed Egypt's Coptic Christian community is being targeted by some Islamists who accuse the Church of backing the army's overthrow of Mr Morsi in July. Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said that he's been informed that 52 churches were attacked in 24 hours, as well as Christian homes and businesses. Speaking on Premier's News Hour Pastor Sameh says he's spoken to Christians who are ready to sacrifice their churches and lives for freedom in their country:

According to local Coptic newspaper, Watani International, at least 26 churches and three Christian schools have been attacked in cities such as Minya, Assiut and Sohag. The Bible Society said two of its bookshops in Assiut and Minia have been attacked and set on fire.

No workers were injured but the two shops were completely destroyed.

Egyptian Bible Society General Director Ramez Atallah called the violence, 'an attack against the state by a violent minority' which he says is, 'an attempt to destabilise the nation.'

He said:

"The attackers demolished the metal doors protecting the bookshops, broke the store windows behind them and set the bookshops on fire. They did the same to many stores on those streets as well as demolishing many parked cars."

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, is the Church of England's lead Bishop on Foreign Affairs. He tells Premier's Des Busteed that both Christians and Muslims have been affected by the violence:

Tensions are running high between Christians and Muslims in the country and Egyptian Christians have requested urgent prayer for their nation.

An Open Doors contact in Cairo said:

"In all of this mess, the loss of the church buildings is great, but not to be compared with the loss of the many souls, the pain of the wounds, and the fear and anxiety that have filled the hearts of all, over what could yet to happen in Egypt today and in the days to come. 

"Buildings can eventually be rebuilt, but when lost, souls can never be restored.

"Please continue to pray for my country.

"Those are the hardest days we've ever witnessed. The peaceful Egypt is now soaked in violence, hatred and desire to revenge.

"My heart and the hearts of millions of Christian and Muslim Egyptians are bleeding as we see Egypt turning into a strange country we've never known before."

Coptic leaders say more than 200,000 Christians have left the country since February 2011, and anti-persecution charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide is urging supporters to pray.

Spokesman Daniel Sinclair said:

"We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed.

"The removals may have been necessary; however, the manner in which they were executed and the excessive loss of lives will only serve to polarise Egyptian society even further.

"CSW is also deeply concerned at the unwarranted and continuing targeting of the Coptic community. 

"We urge the government to ensure comprehensive security to all Egyptians, regardless of their religion."

Meanwhile, Britons have been confined to their hotel grounds in the resort of Hurghada following continuing unrest in Egypt. The Foreign Office still says it's safe to travel to other Red Sea resorts like Sharm el Sheikh. It's already advised against all but essential travel to areas like Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez.

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