A Deshna court has decided to release from police custody two Copts and six Muslims of the village of Fao Bahari, on account of a conciliation agreement which ends the dispute among them, and which they presented to the court. The conciliation was sponsored by former Deshna MP Ahmad Mukhtar and local leaders to bring a peaceful end to a Muslim/Copt conflict on account of the desire of Copts to build a church in Fao, a village with a 4,000 strong Coptic population and no church.
The decades-old conflict culminated on New Year Eve 2020 with the police closing down a small de-facto church the Copts used for sporadic worship seeing they could not obtain the permits needed to build a licensed church. They had intended to hold New Year festivities and celebrate Midnight Mass for the upcoming Feast of the Nativity on 7 January at the de-facto church but, seeing it was unlicensed, the police closed it down. That same evening, a house owned by a Copt caught fire; the incident was believed by Copts to be arson. The police caught five Copts and six Muslims, but released three of the Copts.
The conciliation agreement between the Coptic and Muslim villagers of Fao stipulated that the police alone would be responsible for permitting worship for Copts in temporary premises till they obtain official permit to build a church, and that there none of the disputing parties would wage hostilities against the other—a veiled reference to banning Muslim villagers from attacking the Copts. In short, the agreement places Coptic worship under police “protection” until they can have a licensed place of worship.
For details of the Fao problem:
29 February 2020