Copts who fled the village of Kom Al-Lufi in Samallout, Minya decided to hold a sit-in inside a church to pressure authorities to meet demands related to their legal rights in the aftermath of a sectarian incident in June, rejecting customary reconciliation with the attackers.
In a video published Tuesday by the United Copts website, the protesters said they were fed-up with the authorities’ lack of response to their demands for law enforcement and proper compensation for their losses.
“We knocked on all doors, but all we got were promises on paper,” said one man in the video. Another man said he has lived for 43 days in inhumane conditions after losing his house in the attack. “I live in a garage without facilities, and nobody helped me,” he stated.
Their case highlights the pressure faced by Egyptian Copts to accept informal customary reconciliation, which several claim contributes to misuse of their rights and does not guarantee an end to sectarian incidents.
Incidents of sectarian violence have marked the past two months, with many of them taking place in Minya. Local condemnation of the events put pressure on the government and the parliament to issue a new law regulating the construction of churches.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), on 29 June “several Muslim residents” in Kom Al-Lufi attacked the home of Ashraf Khalaf Fahmi, setting fire to it and four other adjacent houses owned by his brothers.
The police could not enter the area as stones were being thrown. The Christian families were helped to sneak out of the village. Fahmi and his brothers were reported by EIPR to have suffered important financial losses. As a result, they listed three demands: proper compensation, a legal process to take place, and licensing for an existing church near the village.
The mob reportedly carried out the assault after a rumour that Fahmi’s house—which was under construction—was intended to be used as a church. The issue had been ongoing for a couple of days, as the police halted the house construction until they obtained a written promise from Fahmi that the building was going to be used for personal purposes. EIPR reported that the house owner had sought reconciliation with the town’s Muslim families, but that it did not stop the attack.
The prosecution ordered the detention of 19 defendants on charges of setting fire to homes and resisting the authorities.