The Muslim villagers of Koum al-Loufi in Samalout, Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, are adamant that they reject the presence of a church in the village. During a third round of talks with Minya security authorities who have been trying hard to persuade them to accept the reopening of an informal church that had been closed four years ago, the Muslim villagers insisted that it was “not right” that the village should include a church.
Koum al-Loufi was the scene of a vicious attack by the Muslim villagers against the village Copts on 30 June 2016, on suspicion that a Coptic-owned house under construction would be turned into a church. Four Coptic-owned houses were burned and their owners left homeless. The police detained 19 Muslims who were later released on bail.
The Copts whose houses were plundered and burned have so far resisted efforts by local politicians to ‘conciliate’ with their attackers. [http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/sectarian/when-copts-reject-conciliating-with-their-attackers/17129/] The so-called conciliation is a custom widespread in rural Egypt where the local elders arbitrate out-of-court settlements between opponents with the purpose of achieving social peace. In case of attacks against Copts, however, conciliation has been notorious for coercing the Copts into accepting harsh, unjust terms to conciliate, in addition to having to give up all their legal rights—meaning they can get no justice through courts of law.
Koum al-Loufi Copts have insisted on their legal rights and are waiting for the law to be implemented.
The village includes no church to serve the local 1800-strong Coptic population; the villagers have to travel to worship in the nearest village that includes a church. Ten years ago, according to Anba Pavnotius, Bishop of Samalout, Minya, an application was filed with the relevant authorities for licence to build a church in Koum al-Loufi, but no such licence has ben granted until now. A few years ago the Copts used the ground floor of a local building to hold religious ceremonies, but the village Muslims got wind of that. The local security officials, fearing unrest or rioting, closed down the place. Now the security authorities are attempting to persuade the Muslim villagers to accept the reopening of that informal church, but the answer has so far been a flat “No”. When asked by the media: “Then where should the Copts worship?” the reply was: “They can go to the church in the nearest village. A church here would cause intolerable sectarian tension.” They insisted Koum al-Loufi was a ‘Muslim village’, the Copts were ‘a minority’, and it was not right that a Muslim village should include a church.
20 August 2016