By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
EZBAT AL-FORN, EGYPT (ANS – August 27, 2017) — Tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians in a village in Upper Egypt have reportedly softened following recent violent clashes.
According to World Watch Monitor (https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/), Copts in the village of Ezbat Al-Forn, in the Minya governorate, were stopped from holding a service at a private home on Sunday, August 20th, because they had no permit. Local Muslims had reportedly complained that the Copts were meeting in the home illegally, which led to the clashes.
But the Copts processed peacefully through the village streets on the next day (Monday, August 21), to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and all was calm, says the Egypt Independent.
According to the newspaper, the local Bishop, Anba Macarius, “said that Muslims in the village have never objected to the prayers of the Coptic Christians in any place in Ezbat al-Forn.”
The story went on to say that “he added that the relations between the people are kind and neighborly, contrary to media reports that say Muslims object to Christian prayers … [And] that prayers were held in the streets in peace and security, with no protest.”
The local authorities are now reportedly “considering” the Christians’ request for a license to hold religious services at the residential property, while also searching for suspects involved in the violent clashes.
The Egypt Independent added that the Governor of Minya, General Essam Bedawey, acknowledged that “there are tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians in some areas of the governorate, and there is a comprehensive plan to address these spots.”
Bishop Macarius had previously highlighted that his parish alone, which includes only Minya city and its immediate surroundings, is home to 15 churches that have been closed by security order, and 70 villages and hamlets that have no church or any place to hold Christian worship.
In a statement issued recently, the Bishop expressed his disillusionment “at the failure of negotiations with security authorities in Minya to reopen churches closed by security order” because churches either lacked security approval or were considered offensive to Muslims and therefore a threat to social harmony.
As World Watch Monitor has reported, Copts have experienced similar challenges in the villages of Kom El-Loufy, El-Galaa, and also in Saft el-Khirsa — a town of around 12,000, including approximately 70 Christian families, which has ten mosques but no church.
Meanwhile, Watani reported in June that in the village of Dabbous in Samalout, near Kom El-Loufy, Copts have not been able to meet in their church since 2005.
The governorate of Minya, south of Cairo, is home to 5 million people, of whom 35-40 per cent are Copts, and has experienced the greatest number of sectarian attacks, with more than 75 targeting Christian residents in the past six years.
Photo captions: 1) Copts in Ezbat Al-Forn celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in the village’s streets. (World Watch Monitor). 2) Local police prevented the Copts from accessing the building they had been using as a church, saying they didn’t have the necessary permit. (World Watch Monitor). 3) The Copts congregate in an alleyway to pray. (World Watch Monitor). 4) Dan Wooding with the late Norm Nelson at the pyramids in Giza, just outside of Cairo.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 54 years. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of numerous books and has two US-based TV programs and also a weekly radio show. Dan’s, most recent honor was a top humanitarian award at a film festival in Beverly Hills, California, for his long-standing reporting on persecuted Christians around the world. It was presented to him by his son, Peter Wooding. He has reported from Egypt on several occasions.
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