Three full months after the Copts in the Beni-Sweif village of Diabiya, some 100km south of Cairo, were attacked in their homes and businesses, and their church burned,
they remain without official licence to rebuild their church, and with no compensation for their losses.
The story goes back to 11 August when a street fight broke out over a speed bump which a Coptic villager had built in front of his house to slow down traffic for the sake of the safety of children who usually played on the street. A Muslim on a motorbike had a fall as he crossed over the bump, and this led to a fight that escalated to include a large number of Muslims and Copts, and that ended in an all-out attack against the Coptic villagers
As in other villages where Copts are no minority—in Diabiya they form some 50 per cent of the population, the Muslims rallied others from nearby villages to their help. They went on a rampage, assaulting Copts and attacking and burning anything that belonged to them. They used sticks, clubs, stones, rocks, swords and daggers, knives, sickles, guns, Molotov cocktails, and fireballs. They attacked Coptic homes, stables, and fields, and burned the church. The sanctuary, altars, icons, books, benches, were all eaten up by the flames, as was the baptistery, the furnace used to bake the host bread, the bookshop and the canteen. The church was left a ruin. Some nine Coptic houses had been burnt, as well as two shops and a mill. Sixteen villagers, 10 Copts and six Muslims, were injured and moved to hospital.
The police detained 13 men, seven Muslims and six Copts.
Today, the church of the Archangel Mikhail and Anba Antonius is still a ruin. Even though the 50-year-old the church is in possession of a presidential decree that goes back to 2008 which permits its renovation, local officials have consistently blocked the implementation of the permit. Now, the 300 [extended] families the church serves have to go to the nearby town of Wasta for prayers, services, weddings or funerals.
The Copts whose homes, shops or businesses were looted and burned last August have not been compensated for their losses. The plight of the poor Copts who lost small trades that constituted their livelihoods is especially painful.
The six Copts who had been detained in the wake of the riots had, together with all the other detainees in Wasta police station, fled the station when it was attacked and set on fire on 14 August. They later handed themselves back to the police, and are still detained even though the Muslim detainees fled and never handed themselves in. They roam the village freely under the eyes and noses of the police.
10 November 2013