The Coptic villagers of Kom al-Loufi in Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, yesterday celebrated the first Mass in their new church which they consecrated in the name of the Holy Virgin and St Abanoub. The Copts were so elated to have their own village church, which they had started building last January, that they did not wait for it to be finished in order to commence using it; as soon as the building itself was completed they began worshipping there. The new church has not been painted yet or fitted with drapes or icons, or furnished with pews; the congregation squat on the ground when they needed to sit down during prayer.
The Kom al-Loufi church comes as the culmination of a two-year struggle during which hardline Muslims insisted no church would be ever built in the village. The conflict began in 2016 when the Muslim villagers got wind of the fact that the Copts intended to build a church in Kom al-Loufi; at the time the utmost the 2000-strong Coptic community in the village could hope for was to build a house that would be ultimately used as a de-facto church. In June 2016, the Muslim villagers attacked the Copts and burned five of their houses and, ever since, continued to wage sporadic minor attacks against the Copts. The violence led to the arrest of 23 Muslims by the police; this brought pressure on the Copts to withdraw their claims against the Muslims. The Copts persisted in resisting the pressure until December 2017 when they finally acquiesced, having been given a promise by local administrators, politicians and security officials that they would be allowed to build a church.
In the meantime, a law had been passed in August 2016 for the building and restoration of churches.
Watani has reported extensively on the Kom al-Loufi predicament:
23 July 2018