The Bishopric of Sharqiya has issued an official statement under the title “Blessed are the peacemakers” in which Anba Maqar, Bishop of Sharqiya and 10 Ramadan City, thanked the security officials and Muslim elders of the town of Husseiniya and the village of Ekheiwa in Sharqiya for averting an attack against Copts.
The moderate Muslims in al-Husseiniya in the East Delta region of Sharqiya had last week succeeded in defending the local church of Mar-Morqos (St Mark) and preventing a crowd of extremist Muslims for attacking it. The moderates were strongly backed by the local security forces.
The extremists threatened the church in the wake of the discovery of the killing of an 18-year-old young Muslim woman, Basma Muhammad, from Husseiniya, suspected to be at the hands of Mina H., 35, a Coptic carpenter from the nearby village of al-Ekheiwa.
The body of Muhammad was discovered in the car trunk of Mina H. on when he was stopped at a checkpoint at the Sharqiya town of al-Salhiya al-Gadeeda. The Copt was arrested and detained by the police, and is being prosecuted. The reason behind and details of the killing are yet unknown; the crime is under investigation.
Once word got around of the crime, scores of extremist Muslims surrounded the police station in Husseiniya and demanded that the Copt be handed to them for qassaas, revenge or retribution as stipulated by Islam. Another Muslim crowd headed to Mar-Morqos’s with the intent of attacking it and taking retribution against the Copts in general.
Father Morqos Youssef of Mar-Morqos’s told Watani that the security forces hastened to defend the church, as well as Mar-Girgis (St George) church in Ekheiwa and the house of the [extended] family of Mina H., which were also being vocally threatened by the extremists. But more significant and equally important, Fr Morqos said, was that the Muslim elders and family heads in town rushed to contain the threat and potential unrest. The men surrounded the church to make sure no extremist would be able to access it, and the elders attempted to talk the extremists into peace. Local politicians also joined in these efforts.
“The crime is an individual one and has nothing to do with the church or the entire Coptic community,” Fr Morqos said. “It is wrong that Copts should be collectively punished. The Coptic suspect is in the hands of the police, investigations are ongoing, and justice will be served.” By taking the law in their hands, he said, the Muslim extremists only set aflame the peaceful Muslim-Coptic community and incite sectarian conflict.
Fr Morqos thanked the local security authorities and moderate Muslims for their invaluable support. The uncle of the woman who was killed, himself took part in the defence of the Copts, insisting that they should not be subjected to punishment for a crime they had nothing to do with, nor should the peace of the entire town be placed at risk.
Last Wednesday and Thursday saw an escalation of incitement and harsh threats against Copts on the social media, with extremists calling for vengeful demonstrations on Friday 22 April in the wake of Friday prayers. The majority of Copts took these threats seriously; many sent their wives and children to relatives outside Husseiniya and Ekheiwa. The family of the suspect left the village.
Friday saw a limited demonstration of scores of Muslims who were again prevented form reaching the church by security forces and moderate Muslims. In an hour’s time, the demonstration dispersed.
25 April 2016