Hundreds of Copts set out this afternoon in a march from the north Cairo suburb of Shubra, which is famous for its large Coptic population, to the High Court in Downtown Cairo, to protest against the injustice inflicted upon the Copts of Seresna in Tamiya, Fayoum
Hundreds of Copts set out this afternoon in a march from the north Cairo suburb of Shubra, which is famous for its large Coptic population, to the High Court in Downtown Cairo, to protest against the injustice inflicted upon the Copts of Seresna in Tamiya, Fayoum. They chanted slogans that condemned the flagrant discrimination against Copts, especially where building churches is concerned. The voiced their anger against the Islamist ruling regime which does nothing against the injustice or the discrimination Copts suffer from.
The problem in Seresna began last Friday when hundreds of Muslim villagers in Seresna attack the village church of Mar-Girgis (St George) with stones and set it on fire. Part of the dome fell in, the cross was broken, and the interior of the church and the icons suffered several damages. They attacked the priest, Fr Dumadius, but the Muslim family of Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Fattah defended him and escorted him to safety outside the village.
The Salafis in the village had urged the villagers to attack the church, claiming that the Muslim villagers should not allow the presence of a church so close to their homes.
The Seresna church was built in the 1980s and consecrated in the name of Mar-Girgis (St George). It is 200sq.m wide and serves some 180 [extended] Coptic families. The church is adjacent to the house of a Muslim family, the Hussein Kamel clan.
Three months ago, the Kamels began complaining that the “sound of the prayers in the church” upsets them. They bore a hole in the wall between their house and the church, in order to ‘observe’ what went on in the church. The Copts complained to the authorities, but nothing was done and the hole remained.
Recently, Salafi villagers urged the Kamels to attack the church which was, according to the Salafis, “an illegitimate neighbour that should not be there in the first place.” The Church offered to buy out the Kamels’ house, who would then be able to afford a new place far from the church, the ‘illegitimate neighbour’, but the Muslims refused and insisted that the church should move out of the village. They widened the hole to one metre in diameter.
The security officials managed to put an end to the Friday attack against the church by persuading the attackers to leave, but caught none of the attackers.
The following day, the Tamiya prosecution assessed the damages, and the village Copts cleared the debris and cleaned up the church in preparation for Holy Mass on Sunday.
The Kamels, for their part, resumed throwing stones at the church from their rooftop, claiming that they do not wish any prayers to be held there since “the voice of the service disturbs them”.
Saturday evening saw the local security authorities hold a ‘conciliation session’ between the Muslim and the Coptic villagers in an attempt to contain the crisis. The session was held in the house of Abdel-Hamid, with the participation of seven Copts, none of them members of the clergy, the Kamels, as well as four eyewitnesses, the village umda (mayor) and the head of Tamiya prosecution. Four among the seven Coptic participants had been brought in from outside the village, since no more than three Seresna Copts had been willing to take part. ‘Conciliation sessions’ are notorious for upholding Muslim offenders against the Coptic victims by imposing unjust conditions upon the Copts in exchange for putting an end to the offences against them.
Another attack was waged against the church while the conciliation meeting was in session, to cries of “we want no church here!” This led [the Copt] Gamil Ibrahim, who had been among the participants in the session, to leave in protest.
The conciliation contract stipulated that the church, at its own expense, should do several soundproofing jobs on the church building and on the Kamels’ house in order to make sure no sound leaks out to ‘disturb’ the neighbours. The backyard should never be used to expand the prayer area of the church, nor should the church building height be raised above the present three metres.
All through, the local security men banned the visual media from accessing the village, and insisted that journalists should not shoot any photographs of the damage.
17 February 2013