15 Muslims Arrested for Setting Fire to Christians' Homes and Nursery in Egypt

(Photo: Reuters/Stringer)Christians leave after Sunday service at the Al-Galaa Church at Samalout Diocese, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, May 3, 2015. Copts have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders and Sisi's actions suggested he would deliver on promises of being an inclusive president who could unite the country after years of political turmoil. However, striking out at extremists abroad might prove easier than reining in radicals at home. Orthodox Copts, the Middle East's biggest Christian community, are a test of Sisi's commitment to tolerance, a theme he often stresses in calling for an ideological assault on Islamist militants threatening Egypt's security.

At least 15 Muslims were arrested in the Egyptian village of Abu Yacoub on Saturday for setting fire to Coptic Christians' homes and a nursery, allegedly because they feared they would be used as churches.

The persecution of Christians has been on the rise in Egypt this past year, with similar attacks being reported in other villages. The state-owned Ahram Online reported that five buildings, along with a nursery, were attacked and burned down Friday night by the Muslim mob that wrongly believed the homes and nursery would be used as Christian houses of worship.

The Ministry of Endowments has reportedly sent representatives to Minya to talk to local villagers in response to the arson attack, and encourage them to avoid violence and instead choose "love and cooperation."

The nursery, the Egyptian Family House, was founded by then-Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in 2011 as a means to foster religious unity.

Al Hayat newspaper said that the delegation from the Ministry will look into finding permanent solutions to calm the village and restore peace between the Muslim and Christian populations.

Earlier in July a larger mob of 300 Muslims burned four Coptic homes in the Kom El Loofy village in Samalout, Upper Egypt, again because they believed the Christians were looking to build a church on the land.

Christian persecution watchdog groups, such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide, have spoken out strongly against attacks on Christians and the burning of Coptic homes.

"The torching of Coptic homes in Kom El Loofy underscores once more the urgent need for Egypt's House of Representatives to enact a law regulating the construction and renovation of houses of worship in a manner that guarantees the right of Christians to worship in community with others," CSW Senior Press Officer Kiri Kankhwende said after the Kom El Loofy attack.

"We echo the Bishophric of Samaloot in condemning the imposition of reconciliation meetings as a replacement for the rule of law because they impose ad-hoc, unjust and often un-constitutional conditions on the victims of sectarian violence and perpetuate impunity for the perpetrators. Rule of law must be upheld, and must include security services nationwide serving every community without discrimination on the grounds of religion," she added.

Christians are hoping that the Egyptian government will pass a new law in parliament by the end of the year that will allow for the building of churches, which has caused several such attacks.