The Copts of Ezbet Hanna in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo, have finally been granted official licence to rebuild their local church of Mar-Girgis (St George) which they had demolished owing to its run-down, life threatening condition. Nabil Anwar, who has been delegated by Anba Estefanos, Bishop of Biba, al-Fashn and Samasta to handle the Mar-Girgis licence with the local authorities, told Watani that the Church is now in possession of the long-awaited rebuilding permit and that construction work is starting today.
The church was built in 1963, a simple building of mud brick and a wooden roof. Over the years, the building became so run down that the walls cracked severely and the roof caved in. The officials in charge of the church had to ask for a permit from Beni Sweif governor to demolish the old building and build a new one in its place. The church was built on 550 square metres, and today serves some 400 Coptic families in Ezbet Hanna and in six hamlets in its vicinity.
Father Daoud Ghattas, priest of St George’s, says that the church officials had more than once filed applications to al-Fashn local authorities to demolish the church and rebuild it. “We were given the demolition permit, and explicitly told that the rebuilding permit can only be issued after the old building was demolished.
The local officials promised that once we pulled down the old church, they would issue the rebuilding permit. “Six months ago, we demolished the church and its fencing wall. But when we asked for the rebuilding licence, we were amazed at the disregard we were met with by the local officials. When we persisted in our demand, they resorted to claiming that the old building was no church, but was a building that housed a charity. In face of this preposterous claim we submitted all official papers that prove it was a church, including the real estate tax for the church building the bishopric has been paying throughout the past 23 years, and the requests to the security apparatus to assign security for the church. The governor referred the issue to the legal affairs department which took no decision or action. “We have the right to a safe place of worship; a place that would respect our human dignity,” Fr Daoud said.
3 January 2016