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Muslims, Copts Hold Reconciliation Session over Sectarian Clashes

ICC Note: After the Islamists attacked the Christians in Egypt ; both sides entered into a reconciliation agreement. As stated in the following report, the deal they entered into is controversial.

By Manar Ammar

May 19, 2007 Egypt (AHN) – Fifty Muslim sheikhs from the Ministry of Religious Affairs shook hands and smiled at 50 Coptic priests Wednesday in Ayat, about 30 minutes south of Cairo . The village witnessed tension and riots between Muslims and Copts last week, leaving behind burned houses and damaged shops.

Six sheikhs from the Muslim side and six Coptic figures headed the reconciliation committee. The committee estimated the losses from the week’s events and ordered payment from the village’s Muslim elders for any destruction.

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However, the Coptic Pope asked the Coptic community to refuse the money because it doesn’t go “with the Egyptian customs.” Meanwhile, some Copts told Egypt ‘s independent newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm, that the real reason is that Copts are afraid that Muslims will use the money as leverage in the future.

Later, some Copts expressed their anger at the deal that offered to construct a place of worship, but the building would not have a cross, a bell or an alter.

“The Copts only accepted the deal because they are afraid to be called the starters of sectarian tensions,” Annabious Jacoub, the high priest of the Church of the Virgin Mary, said at the church in Ayat.

“They need [the Copts] to express their demands clearly and honestly so things will change,” he added.

“What is the harm of one church in a village that has 13 mosques,” Henna Makin, a priest at the same church, told Al Masry Al Youm.

The Pope’s reply to the criticism was that “if the government is silent, God will not be.”

If Copts sign a reconciliation agreement, the charges against Muslims and Copts arrested in the fray will be dropped.

The clash began last week began after worshippers at the main mosque distributed leaflets that read: “we condemn the building of churches in our beautiful town.” Muslims have been upset over plans to add on to a church built on a disputed strip of land between the church and a mosque.

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