2,000 Muslims surrounded a church, threw stones and Molotov cocktails, and set vehicles on fire, demanded that the priest release a girl who had alleged converted to Islam and was kidnapped by her parents. While the allegations proved false, no one has been punished for the threats and acts of vandalisms.
2/15/2012 Egypt (Ahram Online) – A church in the Nile Delta’s Sharqiya Governorate was subject to intermittent attacks this week after a Coptic-Christian girl allegedly converted to Islam before mysteriously disappearing.
Rania Khalil, a 16-year-old Coptic Christian, is the daughter of a Coptic mother and a Muslim-convert father. Khalil has lived with her mother all her life except for the last six months, during which she moved to the home of her father, who converted to Islam some four years ago and married a Muslim woman.
According to residents of Mit Bashar village in the Sharqiya Governorate in which her father lives, Rania converted to Islam earlier this month and celebrated her engagement to a Muslim man.
On Sunday, however, she abruptly vanished.
So far, two explanations have been posited for the girl’s disappearance. Some say she was kidnapped by her family and is being held against her will in the village’s Virgin Mary Church; others suggest that she ran away from her father to live with her Christian mother.
“In either case, the church has nothing to do with the issue,” Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said.
“We cannot consider a family member taking the child a kind of kidnapping,” Nabil Gabriel, a lawyer close to the Coptic Church, told Ahram Online. “Egyptian law prohibits minors under the age of 18 from changing his or her religion.”
The suggestion that Rania was being held in the Virgin Mary Church prompted several local residents to converge on the church on Monday evening. The following day, some 2000 people surrounded the building, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and chanting sectarian chants.
For the next three days, the unrest continued, with cars in the area being set on fire and a fence surrounding the church being broken.