Mount Sinai monks threatened with deportation

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An Egyptian ex-army general wants to tear down Saint Catherine’s monastery and expel its mostly Greek monks as a threat to national security

Saint Catherine’s monastery was founded in the sixth-century and was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2002

An Egyptian ex-army general has called for a monastery in Sinai to be destroyed and the monks who live there to be deported—because he says they are a threat to national security.

According to Egyptian news source Ahram, Ahmed Ragai Attiya has filed suit to demolish Saint Catherine’s with the city of Ismailiya’s administrative court. Although the monastery was founded in the sixth-century and was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2002, Attiya says that most of the buildings that comprise the complex were built in 2006 and so cannot be classed as historic, which would protect them from destruction.

Saint Catherine’s, named after the Christian martyr, is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, purportedly on the spot where god spoke to Moses through a burning bush. It is famous for its collection of early Christian manuscripts, as well as its Byzantine architecture, and is one of the earliest Christian monasteries to survive intact.

Attiya says that the monks who live at the monastery, most of whom are Greek, pose a threat to national security. He has also accused them of trying to hide Moses’ Well, where Moses is meant to have met his wife, and of raising the Greek flag on Egyptian soil. A panel of experts is investigating Attiya’s claims, which have been denied by the monastery’s lawyer.

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