In yet another incident of coercing Copts into giving up their rights, the Copts in the village of Tarshoub in Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo, were forced to sit down to a traditional ‘conciliation session’ in the wake of a recent attack against them.
The assault was waged by an extremist mob of Muslim Brothers (MB) villagers who attacked the local church and Coptic homes, shops and vehicles. A Coptic-owned shop was burned. The church was surrounded and the priest who had been recently appointed by the bishopric to serve in Tarshoub after an older priest was transferred elsewhere, hounded and forced out of the village. The 20-year-old church was closed down.
Last week saw a conciliation session was held at police station of the nearby town of Beba to resolve the problem. Participating were representatives of al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, the elders of the villagers, and the local security officials.
It was agreed that the church which has been serving the local congregation for some 20 years now, should be closed and another church to be built in a nearby site. Until the new church is built, the Copts may still use the current church for prayers and services.
According to Fr Abdel-Qodous Hanna of al-Fashn and Biba bishopric, the new site is more convenient for a church and the Copts have reppeatedly attempted to build a new church there. So the problem is not with the new site, he said, but with the coercive, humiliating manner in which the Copts were finally allowed to build a church there. Several villagers told Watani that they felt extremely offended to be forced to close down their church and be “granted” permission to build on a site they had for so long demanded. “Besides, who is to decided which priest serves us? It’s a very obvious way to tell us that’s the issue has nothing to do with what’s legal or not, just that we’re under their [MB] thumb,” an old villager who asked to remain unnamed said.
It was also agreed in the conciliation session that the new priest would resume his service in Tarshoub.
In absence of an effective official security role that would work to protect them against extremists and fanatics, Fr abdel-Qoddous said, and when the law is not upheld, the Copts had no other option but to accept ‘conciliation’, even given that ‘conciliation implicitly means the Copts give up all legal rights.
I January 2014