The Coptic Orthodox Church has been closely following up on the crisis that erupted this morning, Sunday 30 May, between the monastery of St Macarius the Alexandrite in Wadi al-Rayan in Fayoum and the government. Pope Tawadros is in contact with Anba Abra’am, Metropolitan of Fayoum, who also supervises the monastery, to contain and resolve the crisis within a legal framework.
The crisis erupted when police forces headed to the monastery, accompanied by a demolition squad, to execute an official order to demolish a farm established by the monastery. The order was issued by the Environment Ministry’s Natural Reserves Authority because the monastery had not paid the annual dues agreed upon with the Authority in 2017 as lease for a 1000 feddan piece of land which the monastery farms [One feddan = 4,200 square metres]. The unpaid dues amount to EGP 4 million.
The farmland is adjacent to the monastery and is cultivated by the monks to generate revenue for their livelihood. The monks attempted to prevent the police from executing the demolition order; they told Watani that a number of them—they did not specify the exact number—were arrested.
The story goes back to September 2014 when the Egyptian government began working on a plan to build a road that would link Ain Sukhna in the east of Egypt to al-Dabaa in the northwest and would pass through Wadi al-Rayan in Fayoum. In the process, the road had to cross land illegally claimed by the Coptic Orthodox monastic community of St Macarius the Alexandrite, that had gradually settled there since the 1990s. The place and its monk community were not then recognised by the Coptic Church as a “Thriving Monastery” because it did not fulfil the conditions to qualify for such a recognition.
The site is part of the natural reserve of Wadi al-Rayan, and is also part of a sprawling 700-feddan stunningly beautiful area of 4th-century cave cells and churches that were inhabited by early Christian hermits since the fourth century and until the 12th century.
An agreement was finally reached between the Egyptian government and the Coptic Orthodox Church to allow the monks to continue their settlement on 3,500 feddans of State-owned land in the natural reserve of Wadi al-Rayan in exchange for annual leasing fees of EGP511,000. Also included in the agreement was an additional 1000-feddan of farmland which the monks had reclaimed from the desert and which they cultivated for a living. The full land allotted to the monks included the church, monastic facilities, monk cells, water wells, and farmland. The land which was previously claimed by the monks and which was subject of the dispute with the government amounted to 13,500 feddans.
For full story of Wadi al-Rayan Monastery:
30 May 2021