Muslim extremists on Saturday abducted the daughter of a church building contractor who is involved in the controversial building of a church in northern Egypt, reports a Coptic rights organization.
Nesma Sarwat, 18, the daughter of the building contractor for the controversial St. Mary and St. Michael church in Talbiya, within Egypt’s third largest city of Giza, was kidnapped in her family home yesterday, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.
Citing information reported by advocacy group Free Coptic Voice, the agency reported that extremists broke into the family’s home to kidnap Sarwat and then wrote threats on the wall, including: “Islam is the solution,” “the church has to be demolished,” and the names of the remaining family members.
Security forces were called to the home after the home invasion and abduction incident, AINA reported. Blood was reportedly found on the stairs and in the apartment.
In Egypt, it is illegal to build or even repair church buildings without a special permit from the government. Construction of a new church building requires a presidential permit and security clearance, while repairs on an existing building require permission from the local governor and security force.
But a confusing bureaucratic process means application for repairs and construction could take years before the applicant receives an answer. Most of the time, the response is "No." Even when Copts receive permission from government officials to build or repair a church, such permits are sometimes not recognized by local security officials.
The rule that requires a license to build or rebuild churches is one of the biggest complaints Egyptian Christians have against the government, which is accused of showing favoritism toward Muslims. Followers of Islam can build or repair mosques freely without having to obtain permits.
Last November, St. Mary and St. Michael church made headlines when reportedly hundreds of security forces and Christians clashed over the unfinished church building. Coptic Christians were protesting the closure of their church.
The conflict resulted in hundreds of injuries, the arrest of 176 Copts, and the death of three Egyptian Christians, according to AINA. Security forces had used tear gas and live ammunition against the Coptic protesters in the Nov. 24 confrontation.
"The Governor of Giza gave instructions to modify the services building to a church building, but a decision by the Chief of the District to halt construction and remove the irregularities angered the people, who congregated next to the building, fearing that the district authorities would cause damage to it, triggered the events and the clashes,” the Church Diocese of Giza had explained after the conflict.
During the recent anti-government protests, members of St. Mary and St. Michael church held vigils at the church building to guard it. The church had been closed since Nov. 24. In the beginning, no security guards interfered, but on Feb. 6 some security guards returned and expelled the priest and church members who were holding prayer meetings inside for their country during the uprising.
The abduction of the daughter of the church building contractor is the latest incident against the existence and construction of St. Mary and St. Michael church.
There are about 2,000 churches in Egypt, which make up about two percent of all houses of worship in the country. Christians, however, are popularly said to make up eight to 12 percent of Egypt’s population. The two figures show the disproportionate number of houses of worship to Christian believers in Egypt.