ICC Note: The past nine months have been among the worst for attacks on Christians in Egypt. The Minya province has been at the center of many of these attacks. From attacks on churches and vandalized houses, to kidnappings and killings, Minya has seen tensions between the Christians and Muslim communities remain extremely tense. Religious leaders have sought to bring about reconciliation and have seen some successes, but the attacks still continue.
04/25/2014 Egypt (Al-Monitor) – The Egyptian province of Minya has frequently been a flash point for sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians. A 2009 report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights specifically focused on sectarianism in Minya and on freedom of belief.
According to the report, Minya was a center of sectarian violence, whether related to the building of churches, the holding of Christian services, rumors about romantic affairs between Muslims and Christians, or cases of regular disputes that quickly turned to mob violence between Muslims and Christians. Violent incidents occurred in the villages of Dafesh in Smalout, al-Ismailiya in Minya and Gargawi in Matai, according to the report.
Today, five years after the report, Minya continues to be the scene of recurrent sectarian incidents, particularly after the forced dispersal of the Rabia al-Adawiya and Nahda protests in support of former President Mohammed Morsi on Aug. 14, 2013. Following this, bloody reprisals spread through the streets of Minya province by Muslim Brotherhood supporters against Christians believed to have played a part in the revolution that toppled Morsi. As a result, a large number of churches, Christian institutions and properties in Minya city were set ablaze on Aug. 14 and during the following few days. The same type of incidents also occurred in other cities of the province, the most violent of which took place in Malawi and Deir Mawas.
After those events, a fact-finding mission from the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies in September 2013 showed that Minya witnessed the most violent of incidents, particularly in the village of Delga, where 27 houses were vandalized and 62 families displaced.
Sectarian strife has been rampant in Minya since the Rabia al-Adawiya massacre. The incidents in Minya, and Delga in particular, created a sectarian hotbed of unrest, which spawned further incidents of sectarian violence not necessarily tied to a particular political issue. For example, a dispute erupted in the villages of al-Hawarta and Sheikh Obeid in Minya, where four people were killed on Dec. 1, 2013, two of whom were Christians and the other two Muslims, after a quarrel about a piece of land.
This was followed a few days later by the torching of all Christian houses in the village of al-Badraman, when a young Muslim man was killed as a result of a love affair between a Christian man and his Muslim female neighbor.
The year 2013 saw great strife in Minya, where as many as 30 churches were burned and many people were killed.
Awad al-Fargini, chairman of the Reconciliation Committee in Minya, described to Al-Monitor the heightened sectarian tensions in the province. “In 2013 alone, we conducted 20 reconciliation hearings between Muslims and Christians to end ongoing disputes. This is a large number when compared to previous years. In the hearings, a decision is rendered against one of the parties in the presence of Christian and Muslim leaders, as well as officials from the province and the church. In those cases, the party that violates the reconciliation terms is compelled to pay large fines amounting to 2 million Egyptian pounds [$286,000], as was the case in the villages of al-Hawarta and Sheikh Obeid,” he said.