Wednesday 29th of January 2020

Cairo Muslims help to restore church

-Mohammed Fathi worked his brush gently over an icon of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, removing soot from its surface inside a church gutted in an attack by pro-Mubarak's militants this month.

“It takes a lot of careful work to do that,” Fathi said. “We have to do a lot of tests with chemicals to try to restore the icon to its original condition.”

The 26-year-old is one of a vast group of mostly Muslim craftsmen tasked with restoring St Mary's Church in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba after militants set it on fire on May 7.

The ground floor of the four-storey church was gutted in the fire, destroying 10 out of 27 old icons beyond repair.

On Wednesday, a team of mostly Muslim restorers - working for one of Egypt's biggest construction firms known as The Arab Contractors - huddled in one corner, using special chemicals, paint and brushes to rescue the remaining paintings.

“My job is to restore historic art pieces, be they Muslim, Coptic or Jewish,” Fathi said.

Malak Gerges, a 56-year-old church driver who was inside the church at the time of the attack, recalled how rebels led a group of young men into St Mary's, opened fire on icons and set the building ablaze.

He said he and his younger brother Saleh tried to hide in the corridor behind the altar but the militants found them.

“They dragged me out and threatened and abused me,” Gerges told Reuters.

He said he did not know what happened to Saleh, an attendant who helped look after the church, until rescue workers found his burned corpse inside the church. According to an investigation report, there was a wound on Saleh's throat, he said.

Abdel-Aziz Mohammed, working on another icon, said he was angry at the people who burned the church. “I felt this was an act of vandalism,” he said.

The governorate of Giza, where Imbaba is located, has pledged to pay for restoration of St Mary's church, expected to cost around six million Egyptian pounds ($1-million).

For now, workers are busy plastering and painting its walls and sweeping out the dust, pushing to finish their work as quickly as possible.

“This work would normally require up to three months. We are doing it in 21 days,” Ibrahim Mahlab, chief executive of The Arab Contractors, said while inspecting the work. “We want to show that no intruder can create a rift between Muslims and Christians.”

source : http://abna.ir
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