AINA) -- Yesterday Muslim Salafis assaulted Christians after Sunday mass, angry that Christians from neighboring villages who have no churches attend mass in the village of Tala, el Fashn, in the Beni Suef Governorate. The pastor of St Georges Church Father Cheroubim Chehab could not go out of church for hours after mass.
Eyewitnesses reported that as Christians left the church, they found a huge
mob of mostly young Salafi Muslims waiting for them, armed with batons. The
assault lead to 5 Copts being hospitalized after suffering broken limbs, and the
torching of two cars which transported the congregation from the other
The pastor of the church contacted the police, asking for help, however, they
appeared hours later, only after Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union
of Human Rights Organization, complained to the ministry of interior against el
Fashn police and told them that no forces appeared in the village, and gave the
names of six of the perpetrators and asked whether the police in el Fashn are
afraid to arrest them. "I want the whole world to know," he said, "that a priest
and his congregation are presently held captives in their church, afraid of the
Salafi Muslims surrounding the church."
Cheroubim said that he looked from the roof of the church and the mob, from
Tala and neighboring villages, was huge. "80% had beards." He said that he
stayed inside the church as he "wanted no friction with the Muslims nor with the
angry Copts, who wanted me to take other steps."
Later in the afternoon high officials from the security and police
departments in Beni Suef arrived to the village for a reconciliation meeting,
and while they were preparing for the meeting, Muslims went into Coptic homes
and attacked the inhabitants. Five were hospitalized.
The problem started between the two parties nearly three months ago during
Ramadan, when Salafist youths stopped Copts from neighboring villages from
attending mass. "We had a meeting with the Muslim elders," said Rev. Cheroubim,
"who told us to wait until after Ramadan when the youth will leave, however,
when we wanted a second meeting to solve the matter, we were told to wait until
security is better. When security was better Copts from other villages
complained that they have been prevented from praying for three months since
Ramadan." He said that only ten men from outside the village came to attend
mass, so a large mob of Salafis waited for them after mass. "Muslims from the
village held back the village Copts, so that the Salafis were able to beat and
terrorize those Copts from outside the village."
Village Muslims insist that the church is an association and not a church and
is for serving the village Christians only, who make up nearly 8% of the
Rev. Cheroubim said that he has been serving in St. George's church for 5
years and all that time Copts have come from neighboring villages to pray. "It
was only during the last 10 days of Ramadan that this started, with complaints
about the way the Christian girls are dressed, then it is not a church but an
association, then no Copts to come from outside the village, but the main reason
is mainly, as one Salafi from the mob was shouting, is that they want to the
High officials from Security department arranged for a reconciliation
meetings in late afternoon with a group of Muslims and Christians, in which it
was agreed that if the is officially licensed then Copts from outside can attend
services any time, but if it is an association, then only village Copts will be
allowed to attend the services. A penalty clause was included in which any part
that attacks the other will pay 500,000 Egyptian pounds. Compensation for
damages to the Coptic side will be paid by the government. No one was
According to Dr. Gabriel, St. George's Church was licensed five years ago.
Rev. Charobim told Copts-United News the Deputy Security Director told the
Christian party during the reconciliation meeting "Thank God for the outcome --
in other places people get killed."
The situation is now calm in the village.
By Mary Abdelmassih