Published: 09:00 GMT Standard Time - Thursday 16 February 2012
Christian families evicted from Egyptian village after Muslim violence
Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt
Eight Christian families have been evicted from an Egyptian village in a “humiliating” agreement made to placate Muslims who had twice attacked Christian property there.
Hundreds of Christians and activists protested against the evictions
Image source: www.aina.org
Three “reconciliation meetings” involving Christian and Muslim representatives were held at the Kobry-el-Sharbat village police headquarters following an onslaught of violence by a mob of Muslims on 27 January. They looted and torched homes and shops belonging to Christians in response to a rumour that a Christian man had taken illicit photos of a Muslim woman.
Three days later, Muslims attacked Christians in Kobry-el-Sharbat, Alexandria, for a second time, setting fire to three homes.
During talks, Muslims demanded the eviction of all Christians from the village because “Muslim honour had been damaged”. They later threatened that if eight families were not evicted by 3 February, all remaining 54 Christian families would be subjected to violence after Friday prayers, calling the day “Friday of Eviction” and “Friday of Clean-up”.
In an effort to prevent further attacks, an agreement was made in which eight Christian families were evicted and the assets of one of them, the wealthy Abeskhayron Soliman family, will be sold. The family’s wealth is estimated at more than 20 million Egyptian pounds (£2m; US$3m). If the terms of the agreement are not implemented, all Christians in Kobry-el-Sharbat will be attacked and their homes and property destroyed.
One local Christian said, “There is a feeling of humiliation and being completely under the mercy of the radical Muslims.”
Christian MP Dr Emad Gad said, “Within a tribe, in the desert, or in a tent, you apply these unofficial reconciliation sittings, but in Egypt we have civil law.”
He attempted to bring up the matter in parliament on 7 February, but his request, supported by 22 liberal MPs, was ignored by the parliament speaker, Dr Saad el Katatny of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
This sparked a protest rally involving hundreds of Egyptian Christians and activists from various political groups. They were prevented from reaching parliament by the security forces.
At a meeting attended by several MPs on 13 February, Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination presented a petition, signed by 13 NGOs, to the speaker, criticising the military and security authorities for not protecting Christians and for supporting “the shameful reconciliation sittings”.
Liberal and Christian MPs said that there has to be an end to collective punishment (when Muslims take revenge upon an entire Christian community over a dispute with one of its members), forced eviction of Christians and reconciliation meetings. They insisted that the rule of law must prevail.
Urgent prayer request
Barnabas Aid yesterday received an urgent prayer request from a church leader in Zagazig, Skarkia, Egypt. He referred to the forced eviction of the families from Kobry-el-Sharbat among several incidents of anti-Christian violence and persecution throughout the country. In his own village, Muslims have torched the homes of Christians as well as a nearby church; in Qena, he said, Christians have been killed, and in Assuit, they have been asked to pay the jizya, a humiliating tax imposed by Muslims on non-Muslims.
He said: “Please pray and cry with us, ask our Lord to save us.”