Muslim extremists reportedly burn down Christian homes in southern Egypt

Muslim extremists reportedly burn down Christian homes in southern Egypt

Several houses belonging to local Christians were set on fire at a late hour on Tuesday in Egypt’s southern Minya province, the most recent of similar acts of sectarian violence against the religious minority, which erupted less than two weeks before the Coptic Orthodox Easter celebrations.

“The attacks are believed to have been triggered by an attempt to build a new church in Al-Fawakher village in Minya met by the violent rejection of their Muslim neighbours,” a source inside Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church told The New Arab.

“When religious fanatics failed to expel Christians from their homes as a form of punishment, the extremists [reportedly] burned down their houses while they were still inside,” added the source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject.

Egypt’s Christians have long called for their right to have equal rights with the Muslim majority and build new worship premises freely.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Arch Bishop Makarios of Minya, home to at least a third of Egypt’s Christian population, said in a post on his official Facebook page that the authorities had contained the situation and arrested the suspects, without elaborating further.

The Egyptian authorities have not yet released an official statement on the incident till the publication time.

Discrimination against Christians is relatively subtle in main cities like the capital, Cairo, or Alexandria but becomes much more pronounced in the south.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recorded at least 77 attacks on Coptic Christians between 2011 and 2016 in Minya, hosting a majority of the country’s Christians. Bishop Makarios himself survived an assassination attempt over a decade ago.

Copts are reportedly banned from holding sovereign ministerial positions or sensitive posts at security agencies. They can also not legally run for presidential elections.

Christians are also legally forced to follow Islamic Law Sharia in most matters, except marriage and divorce. Women have fought endlessly for their right to have equal shares of inheritance with men, but in vain.

No accurate percentage of Christians in Muslim-majority Egypt has ever been officially released. But it is believed they make up approximately 10 to 15 percent of the nearly 109 million population; most are Coptic Orthodox, among the world’s oldest Christian communities.

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