Muslim, Christian Clash in Egypt over Forbidden Relationship

A large-scale clash between Muslims and Christians in a village 18 miles south of Cairo on Saturday has resulted in at least two deaths and a burnt church.

Violence erupted when it was discovered that a Coptic Christian man and a Muslim woman in the village of Soul were in a romantic relationship. The father of the Muslim woman was killed Friday by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to maintain the family's honor, according to Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).

The woman's brother then killed his father's cousin in revenge and then on Saturday a Muslim mob attacked St. Mina and St. George church and torched it.

A security official on Saturday confirmed with MENA news agency that at least two people were killed and the church was set on fire during the clash.

The Egyptian army, which has been maintaining security after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, put out the fire and restored peace to the area.

It is not socially permissible for a Christian man and a Muslim woman to be in a romantic relationship in Egypt. And a Christian man can only marry a Muslim woman if he converts to Islam.

Last November, a rumor that a young Coptic Christian man and a Muslim girl were in a relationship in a southern town in Egypt caused Muslims to burn at least ten Christian homes, according to security officials.

It is currently unknown where the Coptic priest and three deacons, who were in the church at the time of the attack, are. Some say they died in the fire, while others say they are held captive by Muslims. No one was able to contact them through their cell phones, according to AINA.

A curfew has been ordered in the village, which has about 12,000 Christians. And the Coptic man at the center of the conflict was told to leave the village during a meeting between involved Coptic and Muslim families as well as Muslim elders.

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