A cautious peace is now reigning over the town of al-Wasta in Beni Sweif some 90km south of Cairo, following two hours of demonstrations and threats against Copts
A cautious peace is now reigning over the town of al-Wasta in Beni Sweif some 90km south of Cairo, following two hours of demonstrations and threats against Copts.
Some 300 Wasta Muslims marched through the streets shouting slogans and threats against the Copts whom they blame for the disappearance 26 days ago of a Muslim young woman named Rana Hatem Kamal al-Shazli, claiming she was baptised and smuggled out of the country. Shazli, who is a student at Beni Sweif University’s Faculty of Arts, had a week after her disappearance sent her parents a hand-written letter assuring that she had left under conditions “which they fully knew about and understood”, and was now married to a Muslim man.
The protestors attempted to attack the church of Mar-Girgis (St George), hurling stones and bottles at it, but the security forces surrounded the church and prevented any full-scale attack.
The demonstrators threatened and terrorised the town Copts who had to keep to their homes. None of them ventured into the streets, or went to school or work. Coptic shop-owners who opened their shops were forced to close by the demonstrators.
In an unprecedented move, however, a number of Muslim townsmen confronted the demonstrators and persuaded them to end the violence.
Father Maqar of Mar-Girgis’s was surprised at the persistent attempts to invoke the Church in Shazli’s disappearance. He said he had met with the woman’s family and the village elders two weeks ago, and that the matter was settled after he confirmed that the Church had nothing to do with her disappearance.
What sparked today’s unrest was a rumour spread by the Salafis in town that the priest had cast a spell on Shazli through Bible verses written on scraps of paper, and she had consequently converted. It was also alleged that a Coptic man withdrew a sum of money from Shazli’s bank account, an allegation which the Copts deny. They have asked the director of the bank, which employs cameras to monitor its hall, to disclose the image of the person who withdrew the money.
19 March 2013
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