One year on the Maspero massacre of the peaceful Copts who had gathered to protest the attack against the Copts of Merinab in Aswan where their church had been burned by radical Muslims, what has happened to that church?
The Merinab church
The construction company delegated by the Aswan governorate to rebuild the church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in the village of Merinab, Aswan, following its demolition by hardline Islamists a year ago, has finally finished the construction work. Anba Hedra, Archbishop of Aswan, has confirmed that interior and exterior finishing is underway, following which the church will be consecrated.
Last September, as the 100-year-old Merinab church was undergoing fully licensed restoration and renovation, Muslims in the village demonstrated against the fact that the new church building would carry a spire and a cross. The church had previously been a plain, mud-brick building with no specific features.
A ‘conciliation session’—a traditional out-of-court settlement in which the different parties reach an agreement that is binding before the community; in case one of the parties is Coptic, they are usually obliged to relinquish their rights—was held between the village Muslim elders and the Church officials, sponsored by the local politicians and security authorities. The Copts were forced to do away with the spire and cross. Matters escalated, however, when the village Muslims a few days later demanded that the domes be pulled down. The Copts attempted to hold their ground, but had to give in when the security officials said they could offer them no protection. But even as the domes were being pulled down, the radical Muslims in the village burned the church and attacked the Merinab Copts in their homes. Aswan governor Mustafa al-Sayed poured oil over the fire when he appeared on State TV denying that there was a fire in the first place and claiming that the Copts had violated the building licence and the Muslims were just correcting the violation.
Copts all over Egypt were incensed. Marches and demonstrations were held in various Cairo districts to protest the injustice. The culmination of it all was the Maspero massacre, where the peaceful demonstrators in Maspero, Cairo, were shot by security forces and crushed under military armoured vehicles. The Maspero incident claimed 27 lives and numerous injuries.
Anba Hedra says that the Merinab church has been built as it originally was, not as per the new design for which all the permits and papers had been in order. He said the new church carries no spire and no domes, but the Copts would conduct prayers and services inside it as soon as the work is through. He said last year’s strife was now contained and the village Copts understood the situation.
7 October 2012
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