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Islamic Hardliners Violently Attempt to Prevent Legalization of Church in Upper Egypt

07/16/18 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –  International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on July 13, 2018, a mob of Islamic extremists formed in Sultan village, outside of St. Karas Church. Islamic hardliners were responding to reports that the church was seeking legalization. This was the third time in recent weeks that a mob has formed against Sultan’s Christian community.

Sami, one of the local villagers, explained, “Two and a half years ago, a church was built on a 100-meter area. From then on, religious ceremonies and decrees were held [there], but two months later, the church erected another building in a 200-meter area. It has four floors for services and rituals.”

Christians were preparing to hold a service in this additional church building, but the celebration of religious rites has been repeatedly interrupted because of the mob violence. The church was attacked by extremists on July 6, July 7, and July 13.

Regarding the latest attack, one Christian woman, Mariam, stated, “When we started praying in the building, this provoked the Muslims. They said that we were silent about the small church building, but now the Christians are considering making the next building another church. They attacked and destroyed the car of the priest, Father Justin, without causing any human casualties.”

Security forces eventually controlled the situation during the attack on July 13. It is widely believed that this third attack occurred because security forces did not intervene during previous attacks despite being present on the scene.

Local Christians worry that this will not be the last mob attack, as none of the mob leaders have been arrested. Local sources report that Sultan village has only 400 Christians, roughly 10% of the village’s total population. Ahmed explained, “Terror dominates the village because the Muslims can demonstrate and gather at any time. We are in great fear and in anticipation of the situation.”

A local official reportedly told the mob participants that no church will be allowed in the village. Archbishop Makarios released a statement saying, “We are saddened by official appeasement of and acquiescence to demands by some who possess no right to such demands [the demands to have no church in the village], to the detriment of Coptic rights.”

The statement continued, “We live in a sovereign State governed by Constitution, laws, and institutions; and thus reject that anyone should willfully impose over us a situation that defies the law. We are confident that honourable officials in position of authority in this country—with whom we have already been in contact—share our stance in absolutely rejecting the unlawful acts and declarations against us. They have promised to deal firmly with the situation and perpetrators, so that similar incidents do not recur.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Sadly, these kinds of attacks are all too common in Egypt. Islamic hardliners routinely use violence or the threat of violence to prevent Christians from freely practicing their faith. Security forces often ignore or cave to the mob’s demands. The worst part about this current case is that it took three attacks for the authorities to intervene. When they did, they took the side of the mob rather than protecting the rights of Christians to freely practice their faith. This kind of response only encourages extremists to engage in violence toward Christians. Local authorities must do more to protect the rights of Christians.”

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]