Despite the fact that the predicament of the 115-year-old Coptic Orthodox church of the Holy Virgin in Luxor, which was slated for potential demolition to make way for archaeological excavations, was resolved last week in a meeting between State and Church officials, that of the Evangelical church has not been resolved yet.
An agreement was reached on paper between the Evangelical Church and Luxor officials, that the Evangelical church slated for demolition would be pulled down provided Luxor Governorate grants the Church a piece of land of similar dimensions elsewhere in Luxor on which a new church would be built. However, the Evangelical Church refuses to give up the old church till it is handed the land according to the agreement. The decision it the outcome of a bitter experience of a similar agreement between the Evangelical Church and Luxor Governorate in 2010, whereby a church, a Church-owned school, administrative buildings and the pastor’s home were demolished but, to date, no land was granted to the Church as per the agreement.
Reverend Mahrous Karam of the Evangelical church said that the issue started in 2010 after demolishing the surrounding houses where the church received a letter stating that the service building affiliated to the church would be demolished. The church accepted the demolition as long as there would be an alternative for the 2400 square metre land that housed a community centre, club, school and the pastor’s home. Rev. Karam said the Evangelical Church was not in principle opposed to pulling down the church, but needed another one instead.
Luxor Governor Muhammad Badr had told the media that the predicament of the Evangelical church was over but, according to Rev. Karam, it is over in principle but not on-the-ground. “Once we are handed the land as stipulated in the agreement,” he said, “we will hand over the present church building for demolition.”
Dr Andrea Zaki, General Director of the Coptic Evangelical Church in Egypt, commented saying: “We have no desire to obstruct national projects or abstain from supporting our country but, according to the agreement, the State should build for us a new church on another piece of land at its own expense, upon which we deliver the old church for demolition.”
Luxor, which today sits on the site of ancient Thebes, the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom in 1570 – 1069 BC, is home to the magnificent Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. The two temples lie on the Nile bank, Karnak to the south and Luxor to the north, some 2.7km apart. The famous al-Kebash Avenue, also known as Avenue of the Rams or Avenue of the Sphinxes, which stretches 2,700 metres long and 76 metres wide and is among the largest walkways of the ancient world, links the two temples. It was the processional route that witnessed celebrations of the gods of both temples, and is lined with some 1350 ram-headed or human-headed sphinxes. Those at the beginning and end of the avenue lie at the entrance of Karnak and Luxor temples, and have been above-ground for a long time, but a considerable portion of the avenue remains unexcavated, buried underneath the modern-day city. The government is conducting a project to excavate it in full. The project had started in 2005 but was discontinued upon the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011; it has now resumed.
22 April 2018