One day before Minya Criminal Court was scheduled to issue a ruling in the case against 23 Muslims villagers who had in June 2016 burned four houses owned by Copts in the Minya village of Koum al-Loufi, the Coptic plaintiffs officially withdrew the claims they had made against the Muslims.
The Copts told Watani they decided to withdraw their claims for the sake of ‘social peace’, especially now that they have been allowed to build a church on the outskirts of the village, and that the official documentation needed for the building is in the process of completion. They said they feared that a court ruling against the Muslim villagers would generate sectarian tension in the village, and that officials in the Church advised them to seek peace.
However, even if the Copts have relinquished their legal rights, the defendants still face charges of assaulting policemen and damaging police vehicles.
The Coptic-owned houses in Koum al-Loufi in Samalout, Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, were burned in June 2016 because rumours had circulated in the village that the Copts intended to turn one of the houses into a non-licensed]church. The conservative Muslim villagers had refused to allow the 2000-strong Coptic population of Koum al-Loufi to worship in the village, let alone build a church. Local politicians and security officials have failed to persuade the Muslims to allow the Copts to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of worship. Obviously, fearing social unrest and unbridled violence should they force the village Muslims to accept a church in their midst, the local authorities opted for social peace and let matters lie at that.
Last June, local authorities in Minya made an offer for the Copts to build a church on the outskirts of Koum al-Loufi. The Copts rejected the idea at first, but changed their minds when they found out that the official offer was serious, also out of conviction that ‘a bird in the hand is better than ten on a bush’. The Church advised them to opt for social peace.
Watani has reported extensively on the predicament of Koum al-Loufi Copts:
12 December 2017