Orthodox Easter Prayers Anger Islamic Hardliners in Upper Egypt Village
05/03/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on April 30, 2019, a reconciliation meeting was held in the Upper Egypt village of Nagib after threats of a potential mob attack led security officials to close the village’s church. This situation escalated after it became known that the church did not have the necessary permits to practice religious rites.
Egypt’s 2016 Church Construction Law contains language which allows church legalization permits to be indefinitely delayed due to the threat of sectarian violence. Reconciliation sessions are often used to further restrict the rights of Christians to practice their faith.
Church leaders were not permitted to attend the reconciliation session in Nagib. Despite promises given before the session that the church would be reopened and permits issued, it was instead agreed that the church building would remain closed until the permits are issued at an unknown date.
“Many years ago we were praying in our houses with the priest because there was not an [existing] church,” a local Christian told Watani. “Now there are more than 400 Coptic persons in our village and the number of us increases day by day… During the last feast days (Orthodox Easter) many Copts prayed and the police had secured the building, but then the police asked Bishop Georgius to close the church because some Muslims in the village disagreed.”
Another Christian, Medhat, told ICC, “I can see that the police did two things. The first is wrong and the second one is right. The right one is that they secured the Copts who were in inside the church and the wrong one is that they depend on the reconciliation meeting for solving the problem… Also, there [is] no right for Muslims to prevent the Christians from praying and to close churches.”
“This is a very hard situation. You can see kids praying in tears because of their feelings of fear … that is very painful for us as Christians personally. I don’t trust in the government promises, but we have to continue praying for [a] reopening [of] the church,” added another local Christian.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Once again, Egyptian Christians have been denied the right to practice their faith because Islamic hardliners do not want a Christian presence in the village. The situation calls into question whether local police were adhering to the rule of law, or to the rule of the mob. By closing the church and giving in to their demands, Egyptian security officials are putting local Christians at risk of future mob violence.”
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