After four Coptic churches in Upper Egypt were forced to close last weekend following clashes with local Muslims, the priest at one church has staged a sit-in, but another church has agreed, under duress, to remain closed until it has obtained an official permit.
Father Moussa Thabet remains in his church in the village of Sheikh Alaa, in Minya, alongside three deacons. Initially the whole church community had taken part in the sit-in, according to Coptic news site Watani, but first women and children went home, and then the men.
However, Father Thabet and the deacons remain, as they seek the reopening of their church, which was shut at the weekend having only reopened last month. It was only built in 2015 but had remained closed for two years due to continuing tensions with Muslims in the village.
Meanwhile, in the village of Ezbet al-Qeshiri, Copts have agreed that their church, which is just 50 metres from a mosque, must remain closed until an official permit has been received, approving its existence.
The decision was made at a “conciliation meeting”, the object of which, according to Watani, was not to restore peace in the village, as was claimed, but to ensure that the church remained closed.
As World Watch Monitor has reported previously, Copts have long expressed frustration at extrajudicial recourse to ‘conciliation’, saying Copts are “pressured into” them, denying them proper restitution while failing to prevent a repeat of incidents.