Church Renovation Prompts Muslim Mob Attack in Egypt

Egypt (AINA) -- On Tuesday evening, October 27, a Muslim mob attacked the Church of St. George in the village of Nazlet Albadraman, located in the Deir Mawas District, Minya Province. The Priest and the congregation were held inside until they were freed by the village mayor after security forces dispersed the mob. The attack was prompted by the restoration of the Church's tower, for which the Church holds the necessary permit.

Protestant Pastor Habib Ghattas said that the Coptic Orthodox priest Father Serabamon, phoned him from inside the Church and asked him to contact the security forces. "We need them to come and rescue us from the mob," he told Pastor Ghattas.

The mob threw stones and destroyed the church's windows, before going on to destroy cars, shops and Coptic homes. One Coptic woman, Ayman Nada Landy, suffered head injuries. Security forces are presently deployed in the village to diffuse the situation and prevent further escalation. The village was also placed under curfew.

St. George's Church in Nazlet Albadraman serves nearly 5000 Copts. It was renovated eight years ago except for the tower, which is located on the top of the gate entrance to the church. It was made of soft bricks and posed a threat to the lives of the Church visitors. After four years of conflict with the authorities , the church obtained a permit for the renovation work two days ago. Once a was license obtained, the church demolished the dilapidated tower and began digging the foundations for the new one.

According to Free Copts' reporter Nader Shukry the incident started at 8 pm Tuesday evening when a village Muslim called Saber Ahmed Saleh stood in front of the church and started accusing the priests by saying "This way you are causing sectarian sedition, you have to stop your building works." The Church guard was unsuccessful in getting him to leave. The situation began to deteriorate, as Muslims started to congregate, chant and hurl stones at the Church, breaking all its windows. "The village mayor intervened and the security forces forced the mob to leave. The mob left the Church to roam the streets rampaging cars, shops and homes belonging to Copts," added Shoukry.

In an aired audio interview Protestant Pastor Habib Ghattas told activist Wagih Yacoub of Middle East Christian Association "The Muslim mob attacked the Church, and the priests and congregation who were at evening prayers were prevented by the mob from leaving the church. In the beginning the security forces were not able to control the situation. I had to phone state security again to get enforcements. Of course they did take their time arriving to the scene, as usual." He also confirmed that the mob burned down the home of Ishaq Moussa, as well as destroyed Coptic homes, shops and cars.

Pastor Ghattas said that what made the situation deteriorate was "while the mob was congregating near the Church, a preacher at the 'Islamic Charity Society' in the village was calling on Muslims, through his loudspeaker, to take action against the 'Christian Infidels,' so more and more people joined the mob."

Although security forces are presently stationed in the village, some Copts are still taking shelter at the Church, to avoid engagement with the Muslims and for fear of being arrested randomly by the police.

Minya Copts are staging a three-day protest fast, October 26-28, against church-building restrictions and the escalating Muslim attacks on them.

Attorney Mamdouh Nakhla, Director of "Al-Kalema" Human Rights Center called today on President Mubarak to dismissed the Governor of Minya, in view of the increasing sectarian incidents and abduction and forced Islamization of Coptic girls during his tenure in office.

By Mary Abdelmassih

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