Coptic Christian homes set on fire over rumored church construction in Egypt

A young girl looks out over the Cairo skyline on December 16, 2016, in Cairo, Egypt.
A young girl looks out over the Cairo skyline on December 16, 2016, in Cairo, Egypt. | Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Three days after Coptic Christians in southern Minya governorate were attacked over “rumors” of plans for a new church, Muslim extremists upset over a permit to construct a church building on Friday attacked Copts in another village.

Muslim extremists attacked Coptic Christians in the village of Al-Kom Al-Ahmar on April 26 after learning that an Evangelical church had obtained a permit to construct a church building, according to advocacy group Copts United.  

“The security forces moved to the village, and the situation was brought under control and a number of the perpetrators were being arrested,” the group reported. “One of the village’s Copts said that the Evangelical church in the village obtained an official building permit, which angered a number of extremists.”

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Last Tuesday in southern Minya governorate, angry residents beat Coptic Christians and torched their homes in Al-Fawakher village in Samalut over rumors that a church building was to be constructed there, according to Northern Africa News.

The assailants tried to drive Copts from their homes, the outlet reported.

Bishop Makarios of Minya wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that initially, the assailants prevented people from fleeing the violence. He later posted that security forces deployed to the village restored calm and arrested a large number of suspects.

Security forces arrived late to the site, according to Copts United.

“The extremists attacked Coptic homes with stones and chants, and a number of homes were set on fire, amid the screams of women and children,” the group reported. “The attack continued for a long time before the security forces arrived.”

Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) notes that police and firefighters, led by the deputy governor and the head of the police department in Minya, acted quickly to contain the situation.

The police were arresting perpetrators, including those who spread rumors online about plans to construct a church, according to CSW.

“An unacceptable culture of intimidation and discrimination is still far too prevalent in this region despite positive steps taken by the Egyptian authorities in recent years, and the personal commitment of President Sisi to fight sectarian extremism and promote equality of citizenship,” CSW President Mervyn Thomas said in a press statement. “Egyptian citizens should all be free to practice any religion or belief of their choosing without fear of threats or physical violence.”

Separately, CSW reported that the Egyptian government issued a memorandum designating May 5 and 6, a Sunday and a Monday, as bank holidays for Labor Day, which falls on May 1. The move outraged the Coptic Orthodox community, which celebrates Orthodox Easter Sunday on May 5.

“Coptic activists suggested to CSW that the move may be intended to appease Egypt’s Salafi Muslim community, who consider recognizing Easter to be sinful, as it defies the mainstream Islamic doctrine which denies Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection,” CSW stated.

This article was originally published by Christian Daily International

Christian Daily International provides biblical, factual and personal news, stories and perspectives from every region, focusing on religious freedom, holistic mission and other issues relevant for the global Church today.

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