Egypt: Christian homes and shops destroyed following rumours of construction of church

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A mob of Islamists destroyed Christian homes and shops belonging to Christians in Egyptian village. Rage sparked by rumors of construction of a new church sparked anti-Christians violence. Details emerged that a mob consisting of large number of local Muslims uncoiled their fury after the villagers had opted to construct a four-storey building.

Christians persecuted in Egypt

The building was intended to serve as a community center for the villagers, retirement facility and nursery, however, the local Muslims believed that the building was intended to serve as a church building. Consequently, on November 25, a mob unleashed vehemence against local Christians and torched their homes and shops.

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In line with details local Christian villagers had tried to procure a permit to construct a church. Their application has still not been approved. International Christian Concern quoted a local Christian Samir Nashed as saying: “On Friday [at] noon, November 25, following the Muslim prayers, a great deal of fanatic Muslim young men, some of them were carrying gas canisters and rocks while others came armed with automatic rifles, clubs, machetes and knives, they attacked Copts and Coptic-owned houses.”

“The attackers cut off the road so that the fire trucks could not enter the village; they also cut off the water and power supply to the village,” he added.

As a result of the attack, four Coptic Christians had sustained injuries. Four Christian-owned stores were set ablaze while several houses were destroyed. Consequently, the authorities had arrested 18 people in connection with the arson.

“Against a backdrop of deteriorating human rights conditions, the Egyptian government has taken positive steps to address some religious freedom concerns, including intolerance in religious curricula and extremism in religious discourse. In addition, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continued to make public statements encouraging religious tolerance and moderation and attended a Coptic Christmas Eve mass for the second consecutive year.

Furthermore, there were notably fewer sectarian attacks against Christians and other religious minorities, and investigations and prosecutions continued for the unprecedented scale of destruction of churches and Christian property that occurred in the summer of 2013,” United States Commission for International Religious Freedom said.

“However, other past large-scale sectarian incidents have not resulted in prosecutions, which continued to foster a climate of impunity. In addition, the longstanding discriminatory and repressive laws and policies that restrict freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief remain in place. During the past year, there was an increase in Egyptian courts prosecuting, convicting, and imprisoning Egyptian citizens for blasphemy and related charges.

While the 2014 constitution includes improvements regarding freedom of religion or belief, the interpretation and implementation of relevant provisions remain to be seen, since the newly seated parliament has yet to act on the provisions. Based on these ongoing concerns, for the sixth year in a row, USCIRF recommends in 2016 that Egypt be designated a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF will continue to monitor the situation closely to determine if positive developments warrant a change in Egypt’s status during the year ahead,” the report continued.