Egyptian village church shut down by mob still closed after “reconciliation”

10 May 2018

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A church in the Egyptian village of al-Kumeira remains closed following violence by local Muslims, despite Christians signing a “reconciliation” agreement after pressure from village elders and local politicians.

The church in al-Kumeira, around 36 miles south of Luxor, was one of the first to be granted legal status earlier this year by the Egyptian government. Although only recently officially recognised, the church building was openly purchased by the Christian community in 2006 and Muslim villagers have even attended Christian weddings there.

On 1 April 2018, a 300-strong Muslim mob rioted against the church and pelted stones at the houses of Christians in the village. Police eventually dispersed the mob and arrested eight Muslims, but seven members of the Christian community were also detained and charged with “disrupting the peace”.

Although Christianity predates the arrival of Islam in Egypt, Ottoman-era restrictions on church building (only recently rescinded) mean many congregations meet in unlicensed buildings. Attempts to secure official status can lead to violent local opposition (Image credit: Andrew A. Shenouda )

Following pressure from village elders and local politicians, the Christian community signed a “reconciliation” agreement with local Muslims on 26 April, on the understanding that charges against the arrested Christians would be dropped. At the time of writing, the church building remains closed and the seven Christians have not yet been released.

Typically, under such one-sided “reconciliation” agreements, Christians are forced to waive their rights to take further legal action, while the perpetrators of the violence go unpunished.

A recently-legalised church in the nearby village of al-Hleiliya has also closed its doors, after local Muslims held violent demonstrations in early April.

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