The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement declaring that, upon directives from Pope Tawadros II, a committee has been formed to follow up on the legal aftermath of the Wadi al-Rayan issue, and on measures that should be taken to preserve peace for all.
The committee is formed of four members: Anba Abra’am, Metropolitan of Fayoum; Anba Danial, Bishop and Abbot of the monastery of Anba Pola on the Red Sea coast; Engineer Kamel Michel; Engineer Ayoub Adly Ayoub. The statement said that the committee should keep the Pope duly informed about all outcomes.
The predicament erupted earlier this week when a monastic community residing in Wadi al-Rayan in Fayoum, some 150km southwest Cairo, were forcibly stripped of land they had leased from the government for agricultural use. The site is home to 4th-century cave churches and monk cells of a community that started there under St Macarius the Alexandrite. The modern monastic community built facilities at the site and resided there since the 1990s, but the land they used is State-owned and encroaches on the nature reserve of Wadi al-Rayan. In 2017, the government agreed to a settlement with the monastic community, according to which they would be leased the land they live on in addition to other land to use for agriculture.
Despite repeated demands and warnings to pay the dues, the monastic community could not pay a sum of EGP4 million they owed the government in lease and, according to the leasing contract, the agricultural land was seized by the government. The monks attempted violently to prevent the land seizure, but did not succeed.
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In Parliament, MPs Emad Khalil and Martha Mahrous submitted a request to the Ministry of Environment to offer the monastic community an easy payment plan in order for them to be able to regain the land which they use for special agricultural purposes. The land lies within the borders of the nature reserve of Wadi al-Rayan and, as such, is under the care of the Ministry of Environment, and may not be sold or purchased but may only be leased.
3 June 2021