Houses of Copts have again come under attack by a mob in a village in Minya Governorate on 31 August, as a protest against Copts praying in a home owned by one of them, since there is no village church, Coptic news site Watani reports.
World Watch Monitor last week reported that at least eight churches have had to be closed across nearby Luxor governorate, as mob rule has meant that churches in process of being officially licensed cannot complete this process due to security concerns.
Last week, too, Watani reported that, of over 3,700 churches seeking to be recognised under a 2016 revised law, only 220 have completed this in the 11 months since the Cabinet committee started to license them – leaving 3,510 applications still waiting. At this rate, says Watani, it will take 17 years to review all the unofficial churches which re-applied to be formally recognised. Many have waited around 15-20 years already to be registered by the state.
The village of Dimshau Hashim, 250km south of Cairo, is home to 30,000 people, including a small Coptic community of 450.
The Friday attack, reported to involve hundreds of locals, left two Copts with knife wounds to the head and face. Four properties were looted, destroyed and partially set on fire. While doing this, the Muslim mob reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) and chanted slogans against Copts.
According to World Watch Monitor’s local source, a few days before the incident, the Coptic community had received a warning about the attack planned for Friday, and reported it to the police. However, it was not prevented and the police arrived at the scene three hours after the attack was reported to them; it started after Muslim Friday prayers at 1pm and went on until 4pm, locals say.
Nineteen Muslims have been detained and are being investigated on charges of “perpetrating unrest and attacking others for allegedly building a church without licence”; 19 others were arrested but released after preliminary investigation, according to Watani.
Police cordoned off some streets, and tightened security measures were put in place. Despite that, Copts continued to receive threats from Muslims, World Watch Monitor’s source reported.