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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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  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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