Reconciliation Session Leads to Church Closure

ICC Note:  A reconciliation session following a mid-April attack on a church has resulted in a settlement dictating that the church will remain closed until officially legalized. However, the authorities view threats of violence as a legitimate reason to deny legalization. Meanwhile, 9 Coptic Christians and 11 Muslims from the village have been handed a one year suspended prison sentence following the incident.    

05/16/2018 Egypt (Wataninet) – The State Security Court has handed the nine Copts and 11 Muslims from the village of Meinin, who were charged of mobbing, fighting and possession of unlicensed arms, a one-year prison suspended sentence. The court based its decision on the conciliation worked yesterday in the village. “The sentence is tantamount to an acquittal,” remarked the Copts’ lawyers, Tharwat William and Essam Reda. The case is, however, expected to go before a misdemeanour court on 22 May.

A conciliation session, a traditional out-of-court settlement, had been held last evening between the Copts and Muslims of the village of Meinin in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo, to contain the fallout of an attack against the village church on 14 April. The incident resulted in the arrest of nine Copts and 11 Muslims, and closure of the church.

The conciliation session was held in a local school building and was attended by the village elders, local politicians and security officials, as well as members of the Muslim and Coptic clergy: all in all 10 representatives from each side. The settlement reached said the church would remain closed until officially legalised by the Cabinet committee that looks into the cases of unlicensed churches. A hall annexed to the closed church would be used for social occasions for Copts, such as weddings or funerals.

The Meinin village church of the Holy Virgin and Pope Kyrillos has been used for worship for some 10 years now, and is among the unlicensed churches which, according to the 2016 Law for Building Churches, have filed applications for legalisation of status.

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