Minya independent republic thwarts law, and thrives

29-07-2018 11:54 AM

Youssef Sidhom

Youssef Sidhom


Problems on hold

· Today I go back to broaching an issue I have repeatedly tackled, for what is one to do when incidents keep on recurring in the same manner and same place, replete with all the odious details?

· In defiance of the law, Muslim fundamentalist hardliners persist in disallowing the building of new churches or the legalisation of existing non-licensed ones. With every such incident, Copts find themselves facing the same official inaction, the same local administration apathy, the same police inability that appeases the wrongdoers, and the same ultimate outcome: the hardliners get stronger and stronger. To those who wonder why, the answer is very obvious: because the State does not confront the hardliners, neither does it enforce the law. Who can thus blame them if they repeatedly venture on the same gruesome scenario of violent mobbing in rejection of the existence of a church? The outcome is by-now predictable: the police move to the scene under the pretext of defending the church but then proceed to contain the wrath of the protestors, appease them, and persuade them to disperse on a promise that the church in question would be closed. As to the Copts, the police attempt to allay their anger and anguish by assuring them that the church closure is but a transitory action until the storm subsides. But the truth is that the storm never subsides, and the church remains closed. And why would the storm subside if the hardliners unfailingly achieve their purpose? They know all too well that the State, the local administration and the local security apparatus choose to compromise their dignity and prestige, and bow to hardliner pressure.

· Let no one ask me how this could take place under the 2016 Law for Building Churches, the legislation legalising unlicensed churches, or the official directives that ban the closing of existing unlicensed places of worship that have officially required legalisation. It is obvious that the law is put into effect only if no one objects, protests or mobs. But if anything occurs that represents an alleged threat to so-called “stability” or “social peace”, even if it occurs at the hands of fundamentalist, fanatic hardliners or outlaws; official wisdom elects to succumb to the will of the lawbreakers and waive the law aside.

· In its current Arabic language issue of 29 July 2018, Watani prints the full details of the latest episode of church closure at the hands of the police to appease Muslim hardliners, under the title: “The complete story of the mobbing of Ezbet Sultan villagers in Minya to reject the building of a new church”. The story explains how the police, complying with the hardliner demands, closed down a new church the Copts were building because their old one had become too small and dilapidated to accommodate the growing congregation. The Copts had to go back to praying in their old, inadequate church. The story is sad and all too familiar, and its occurrence in Minya which is, according to statistical research the scene of 65 per cent of violent attacks against Copts, is predictable and depressive.

· I went back to what I had written on various earlier incidents similar to the horrific Ezbet Sultan case. What I found confirmed that nothing has changed, new law or not, and compiled a long, broad legacy of hostility against Copts and official inaction to defend them. The list warrants documentation, and witnesses to the augmentation of Coptic frustration and bitterness:

· 17 June 2018: Mr President, take note: Copts are attacked, churches closed. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/mr-president-take-note-copts-are-attacked-churches-closed/24404/]

· 13 May 2018: A new batch of churches legalised: Proof is in the application. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/a-new-batch-of-churches-legalised-proof-is-in-the-application/24019/]

· 4 March 2018: Even so, the proof is in the application. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/first-list-of-unlicensed-churches-legalised/23243/]

· 4 February 2018: Again: If disgraceful, why do we do it? [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/again-if-disgraceful-why-do-we-do-it/22811/]

· 21 January 2018: The proof is in the application. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/the-proof-is-in-the-application/22719/]

· 31 December 2017: Year in review: Copts’ right to worship. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/year-in-review-copts-right-to-worship/22524/]

· 26 November 2017: More churches harassed. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/more-churches-harassed/22065/]

· 5 November 2016: Defying the law. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/defying-the-law/21862/]

· 1 October 2017: Time to legalise unlicensed churches. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/problems-on-hold-time-to-legalise-unlicensed-churches/21462/]

· 3 September 2017: Mr President: Minya is boiling over. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/mr-president-minya-is-boiling-over/21155/]

· 4 June 2017: Terrorism from inside and outside. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/terrorism-from-inside-and-outside/20298/]

· 2 April 2017: Law for building and restoring churches: Trouble in Sohag. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/law-for-building-and-restoring-churches-trouble-in-sohag/19526/]

· 4 December 2016: Before the law for building churches: The Copts’ constitutional right to pray. [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/before-the-law-for-building-churchesthe-copts-constitutional-right-to-pray/18145/]

· 27 November 2016: Law for building and restoring churches: ease or complication? [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/law-for-building-and-restoring-churches-ease-or-complication/18090/]

Is this enough? Or should I cite more? The legacy is heavy and bitter.

Watani International

29 July 2018

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