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Muslims barricade Christians in Egyptian village over church dispute

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Muslims barricade Christians in Egyptian village over church dispute

Country/Region: Egypt, Middle East and North Africa

Christians were barricaded in their Egyptian village by local Muslims who threatened to demolish a newly-built church and use it as a mosque.

The Christian residents of Elmarinab in Edfu, Aswan province, were blocked from leaving their homes, even to buy food, until the domes of St George’s Church were removed. The church minister said that doing so would cause the building to collapse.

church-building-in-Egypt-4X3.jpg
Christians face frequent harassment over church buildings in Egypt

The century-old church of St George was rebuilt – with permission from the Aswan governor – because its dilapidated state made it unsafe to use for services. Local Muslims made no complaint about the rebuilding until the work was nearly complete and services were being held there.

At a “reconciliation” meeting on 2 September, Christians – for the sake of peace – conceded to the Muslims’ demands that the building be stripped of crosses and bells, despite the permit allowing these items as well as the domes.  

But this was apparently not enough to placate the Muslims, who, four days later, demanded the removal of the domes also and any other sign of its being a church. They are claiming that the previous building was not a church but a hospitality home, despite valid documents to the contrary.

Escalating tensions

Security forces were called to intervene as Muslims blocked the roads to the village and Christians were trapped in their homes. Officers accompanied two Christian youths to buy food for the villagers. There are reports that Muslims destroyed their crops while the Christians were detained.

With tensions escalating, two army tanks arrived to protect villagers from violence early on Friday morning (9 September). But the Muslims were undeterred by the military presence, and chanting “Allahu Akhbar” (“God is great”), they called for the church to be razed. They threatened to demolish it after Friday prayers and use it as a mosque. Christian youths reportedly stayed inside the building to guard it from vandalism.  

The authorities demanded that no further construction be carried out or services held in the church, and that Muslims refrain from violence. There have been no subsequent reports of the Muslims carrying out their threats.

Muslims are often hostile to the construction of Christian places of worship in Egypt, and Christians face frequent harassment and sometimes violence as a result. Restrictions on church buildings make it difficult for Christians to obtain permission for new ones or even repair existing ones.  

At the end of July, eight Christians were injured when hostility over the installation of a church bell at a 100-year-old church in Ezbet Yacob, Minya province, turned violent. Muslims started attacking the building and assaulting Christians, including a pregnant woman. Six required hospital treatment.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Heavenly Father, we lift up to You today the heartbroken family of Mary Sameh George, a young Christian woman who was killed in an Islamist attack on a church in Egypt. We pray that You will comfort them and give them Your peace. We thank You that Mary was not ashamed to make her allegiance to You known, even taking the risk of provoking murderous anger against herself. We pray also for the families of three others who were killed in this attack at a church in Ain Shams, a suburb of Cairo, on 28 March. Lord God, may the hostility of Muslim Brotherhood supporters towards Christians in Egypt be restrained. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 21 hours ago

    • Give thanks that as believers in some areas of Egypt continue to be at risk of violence from Islamists, Barnabas Fund is able to provide various kinds of practical help for needy Christians there, especially those most affected by the political turmoil. We are supporting Christian families in Upper Egypt with housing costs, medicines, food and schooling for their children, and 30 Christian students who were on the verge of dropping out of education because of lack of money have received funding to complete their education. Pray for all those receiving this help, that they will also be encouraged spiritually. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that the authorities in Egypt are pursuing justice for the Christian community following widespread violence against them by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Christians were scapegoated by the Islamists for the downfall of President Mohammed Morsi. On 14 August, mobs torched scores of churches, Christian institutions and private property in what was described as the worst single day of violence against the Egyptian Church since the 14th century. Over 100 Muslims have been charged in connection with the attacks; at the time of writing they were due to stand trial for rioting, attacking citizens and targeting the churches and homes of Christians. Pray that justice will be done and restitution made to churches and individuals who suffered material losses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “I was so happy and treasure this Word of God. It brings me so much peace and hope.” Uu Dee KoMang, an elderly woman in Burma (Myanmar), was one of many Christians who recently received a Kachin Bible through Barnabas Fund. Two years ago the Burmese army entered her village and ordered everyone to leave within the hour. Uu Dee took some clothes and food and ran, but her Bible was too heavy to carry. Now living in a relocation camp, she regretted not taking it, until the Bibles from Barnabas arrived. Pray that God’s Word will comfort and strengthen these believers who have lost so much and will give them encouragement for the future. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

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