ICC NOTE: This is a continuation of the story posted a few days ago. Initially there were no reports of fatalities.
EGYPT : Coptic Orthodox leader killed as Muslim set fire to Christian church
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Sunday, 22 January 2006
By ANDnetwork Journalist
One Christian has died and at least 11 Egyptians were reportedly injured yesterday morning when Muslims clashed with security police and set fire to a Christian community center in Upper Egypt .
Coptic Christian Kamaal Shaker died of injuries he received when a group of Muslims set fire to an Orthodox-owned building in the town of el-Udaysaat, near the city of Luxor , said Youssef Sidhom, editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani.
Muslims who heard prayers from the all-night service in the community center threw torches into the building at 4 a.m. Thursday, Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar reported today. According to the newspaper, all those injured, including security guards Ahmad Hosni and Yasser Mahmood, were taken to Luxor International Hospital for treatment. Hosni was admitted to the intensive care unit for suffocation-related injuries.
Local sources told Compass that the center had been banned from holding religious services in 1971, when authorities told the congregation to apply for registration. Recently the community began to remodel the building and had planned to inaugurate it for use conducting prayer services.
The all-night prayer service was being conducted on the eve of Epiphany, celebrated 12 days after the Eastern Orthodox January 7 Christmas.
Police arrested 10 men involved in the attack and the owner of the building, an Egyptian security sources said.
Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III plans to send seven bishops to el-Udaysaat tomorrow for Shakers funeral service, said Watanis Sidhom. They say that the funeral service will be held in the same site which was under attack, Sidhom told Compass.
Holding the funeral at a venue unlicensed as a church appears to be a sign of protest against Egypt s 150-year-old Hamayouni law that governs the building and basic upkeep of non-Muslim places of worship. The legislation creates unequal treatment of mosque and church construction, and Copts complain that it has been abused to stifle Christian activity.
The problem of unregistered worship in el-Udaysaat is not isolated. Most of the churches in Upper Egypt are unlicensed, Sidhom commented to Compass.
Many churches, such as St. Georges in the Sohag province, have had their applications for official registration stalled for years by government officials. The Coptic congregation in the village of Bani Khalid has been unsuccessfully applying for church registration since authorities closed down the church building in 1990.