Netherlands: Muslim groups offer to guard threatened Coptic churches

Netherlands: Muslim groups offer to guard threatened Coptic churches

Coptic churches in Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands are among dozens of European Coptic churches threatened by al-Qaeda. Update: Austria also on the list.

Muslims groups are offering Coptic churches in the Netherlands protection against possible attacks (NL), the spokesmen of the Dutch Muslim Council (NMR), the Council of Moroccan Msoques in the Netherlands and the Federation of Islamic Organizations (FION) said Tuesday.

Three Coptic Orthodox churches in the Netherlands appear on an al-Qaeda list as possible targets for a bomb attack: in Eindhoven, Utrecht and Amsterdam. In total there are seven Coptic churches in the Netherlands.

The pastor of the Coptic church in Amsterdam said in an email response Tuesday that he received the offer. The board sent an email reply to thank them, saying that they're 'seriously considering' the proposal.

Besides proposing to protect the churches against 'the threat of al-Qaeda' the chairmen of the three Muslim organizations call all Muslims, young and old, men and women, to loudly and clearly condemn the threats. "We must do this because al-Qaeda says it acts in the name of Islam. Christian Copts, we and for that matter all Dutch, have the exact same enemy: the terrorists. It's high time to make this loudly clear. With the thought that Christian Copts here in the Netherlands will be attacked, we can't sleep anymore."

Pastor Jozef Rizkalla of the Coptic Church of Eindhoven said that volunteers are keeping watch at his church. The pastor was invited Tuesday for a talk in the police department to see if he should lodge a complaint. According to a police spokesperson, 'proper measures' were taken to secure the church building.

The police is extra vigilant at the Coptic Church in Utrecht, which lodged a complaint Tuesday, a board member said. The Coptic Christmas celebration on Thursday evening will go on as planned, he stressed. "We're not ruling out that something will happen, but we're not going to be scared." About 150 churchgoers were informed by phone about how they should enter and leave the church. Cars may not stop in front of the door and visitors must leave the church one by one.

The police in Amsterdam did not want to speak about the security of people or buildings.

The three churches in the Netherlands appear together with dozens of other Coptic churches in other European countries and Egypt on the Sumukh al-Islam website. The website called to attack churches during the Coptic Christmas, on Friday. The Alexandria church in Egypt, which was attacked on Saturday, killing 21 people, appeared on the list.