A Coptic church in Upper Egypt is closed after a throng of angry Muslims attacked it this month, beating a priest and another Copt as more than 200 fearful children who had gathered for Bible lessons looked on, according to advocacy groups.
One of the injured Copts, Asaad Bakheet Rezek, told Coptic TV (CTV) that a Muslim about 17 years old beat one of the priests with a club as security forces led him from the Anba Karas Church building in Naga al-Ghafir, Sohag Governorate in southern Egypt.
The priest, identified as Father Basilious, sustained a minor head injury as security forces escorted him and another priest into an armored vehicle after the chanting mob tried to enter the building, Rezek said, adding that the children were terrified by the club- and knife-wielding crowds as they shouted, cursed and pelted the building with rocks.
The village mayor had gone to the church premises the previous day, angry at construction underway for a fourth floor to a building annex, according to advocacy groups Coptic Solidarity and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
The mayor accused the Christians of “treason” for the add-on. He started shouting to neighbors to take action against the church and left, later submitting a notice at the city council complaining about the construction, according to the groups. The city council immediately arrived, stopped the work and confiscated building materials, including the cement and the reinforced steel.
The next day at 4 p.m., dozens of angry demonstrators tried to enter the church premises but were unable to get through a steel door. Carrying clubs and knives, they started shouting, cursing and pelting the building with rocks, according to Coptic Solidarity.
Additional forces arrived, and Father Basilious was struck as he and another priest were escorted off the premises. Parents and church leaders were not able to move the 200 children away from the angry, chanting villagers until security forces dispersed the crowds. Though police witnessed the beating of the priest, no arrests were made.
Both Father Basilious and Father Bakhoum were taken for questioning into the evening hours.
Police issued an indefinite closure order, pending investigations, and froze all activities of the 10-year-old church, including the its daycare and the Sunday School.
The church, which held worship services every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, was the only one serving a Christian population of about 1,300 in Naga al-Ghafir village, the rights groups said. There had been no prior trouble with Muslim neighbors.
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Source: Christian Headlines