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11/07/2019 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – A reconciliation session in Hgara village, located in Upper Egypt, resulted in local Christians being told that they must rebuild their church three kilometers outside of the village.

For more than 26 years, Coptic Christians in this village have struggled to rebuild and renew their church, named Mar Girgis. The church had received a presidential decree in 1993 and Christians moved forward with purchasing the needed materials, but security forces stopped the process. The situation moved into the legal system, resulting in a 2003 judicial decision that reversed the security forces’ decision. However, the local officials ignored the decision.

Since that time, Christians have faced many difficulties worshiping at Mar Girgis. Village extremists regularly interfere in Christian prayers and worship. The officials kept suggesting that the Christians look for a new church site outside of the village. The recent reconciliation session underscored this suggestion. It is worth noting that reconciliation sessions have no legal binding but are often a tool used by the state to solve issues between Muslims and Christians. During these sessions, Christians have no rights nor equal voice, leaving them to the mercy of decisions made by the Muslim community.

Local Christians are angry as the church is over a hundred years old and is located near several Christian houses. Said one local believer to Watani, “we are upset that for 26 years, there are no solutions. Each time we pray, the extremists attack us. We just need to pray in peace!! The government did not punish the extremists and stressed on the Christians to move the place of the church to a site which is out of the village.”

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]