It was my intention to return to Blogging today, however, I have had a significant accident at work today involving a ladder, height and a terrific fall – so I am very sore and incapacitated to a degree with some severely injured (typing) fingers (among a host of other injuries, including head injuries). Hopefully I can get back to Blogging sometime this week. Thanks all.
Pastor Vahik Abrahamian, an Armenian Christian residing in Tehran, Iran, who was visiting a friend, upon his return to his home was arrested in Tehran by plainclothes security officers, reports FCNN. The manner in which he was arrested and the prolonged detention in Evin notorious prison, has created grave concern amongst the Iranian Christian community, particularly with family and friends.
"As per reports by FCNN correspondents and sources within the country, on Saturday 20th February 2010 (1 Esfand 1388) plainclothes security officers arrested 44 years old ‘Vahik Abrahamian’ , who is an Armenian Christian leader, as he was departing a friend’s house who was visiting Iran from Europe.
The manner in which Pastor Abrahamian was arrested is very unsettling and indeed ambiguous. As per received reports, 3 plainclothes security agents who were in a green Peugeot vehicle, swarmed upon Mr. & Mrs. Abrahamian as they were departing their friends house.
What is quite uncommon in any similar incident, one of the agents was filming the whole episode with a handheld camera. The agents showed an arrests warrant with permission to ‘shoot to kill’. After searching their vehicle and seizing all personal belongings, they set Mrs. Abarahmian free and took Pastor Vahik to Evin prison.
As per FCNN reports, wife and parents and extended family and friends of this Armenian Christian leader, are extremely concerned for the well being of the prisoner and are completely in state of shock. Mrs. Abrahamian has been unwilling or afraid to discuss the matter with anyone.
All Pastor Vahik’s family and friends vouch for his meek, humble and Godly character. All are unanimous that he was not only God fearing and law abiding citizen but was also very compassionate and sensitive particularly to the drug addicts and reached out to serve them. All are totally convinced that his character is beyond reproach and are hoping that this grave misunderstanding by the authorities will clear and he will be set free.
It’s noteworthy that Pastor Abrahamian had dual Dutch and Iranian citizenship, yet chose to live, work and serve in his native country Iran, staying close to aging mother and family.
As per obtained reports, there are many unanswered questions with regards to the circumstances leading to his arrest which is normally conducted in detaining known terrorists or political activists. The authorities have neither commented why this extraordinary measures were taken and nor why is he being held for such lengthy period. It’s also unclear who is holding this law abiding ordinary citizen and which authority has ordered his arrest! It seems that we have a long wait to hear from Islamic republic Juridical and legal authorities about reason of his arrest.
The received reports indicate that after elapse of over a month from his arrest, there is complete silence by Iranian Legal and juridical authorities and so far he has been denied appointment of a lawyer or visits by next of keen. Mother, Wife, brother and extended family are extremely concerned for his well being and are grief stricken with no clear and promising news.
At this time we would like to beseech all Christian community in Iran and overseas to fast and pray for his release and also pray for other Christians arrested in the last days and weeks in various cities in Iran. May God in His grace intervene in this situation and let’s hope that he will unite with his family bringing great joy and relief in the festive days of the Nowruz’ spring in Iran.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Islamists pressure officials to stop Baptist services; Batak worshippers also told to cease.
JAKARTA, Indonesia, February 4 (CDN) — Local governments have ordered the closure of two churches on Indonesia’s Java island.
Under pressure from Islamist groups, authorities ordered Christian Baptist Church in Sepatan, Tangerang district, Banten Province to cease services. In Pondok Timur, near Bekasi in West Java, officials abruptly closed the Huria Christian Protestant Batak Church (HKBP) after delaying a building permit for four years.
Tangerang district authorities issued a decree on Jan. 21 ordering all worship activities to cease at the Baptist church. At a meeting in the district offices, officials pressured church officials to sign a statement that they would stop all worship activities, but they refused.
The Rev. Bedali Hulu said that he received the government order on Jan. 26. In addition, a sign was placed on his church’s worship building saying, “Stop! This building violates government decree number 10 of 2006.”
Hulu told Compass that on Dec. 7 a banner was placed on the street leading to the housing area that said, “We Reject the Presence of Uncontrolled Churches in our Area,” and “We Reject Uncontrolled Churches in Sepatan District.” On Dec. 12, citizens presented a letter rejecting the presence of the congregation to church leaders.
The church has permission to worship from both local citizens and the Christians in accordance with a Joint Ministerial Decree promulgated in 1969 and revised in 2006, Hulu said.
“However, the pressure from Islamic groups is so strong, it’s as if the local government can do nothing,” he said.
Islamic groups stirred up demonstrations against the church on Dec. 19, when 30 people demonstrated during a Christmas celebration for children, and another demonstration followed the next day. On Dec. 27, a large crowd from the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) arrived and demanded that worship cease.
Police on Dec. 29 issued a letter ordering that services stop because they violated local government regulations. The next day church leaders met with local officials but did not reach an agreement.
The church of 130 people has been facing such obstacles since 2006. It began in 2005 after reporting to local authorities and receiving permission.
Opposition from the FPI began the next year, and the church was forced to move services from house to house. On Nov. 4, 2007, as children attended Sunday school, around 10 FPI members arrived and broke up the meeting. On Nov. 19 of that year, several FPI members sent a letter to Hulu warning him and his family to leave the village within six days or the extremists would chase them out.
Hulu left temporarily on the advice of police, but his wife and mother-in-law were allowed to remain.
Last year, unidentified people burned the church building on Sept. 20; police have done nothing, he said.
Near the city of Bekasi, West Java, the government has given a deadline for the cessation of services to the Huria Christian Protestant Batak Church in Pondok Timur. The Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak said that services were ordered to cease after last Sunday (Jan. 31).
The government requested that church officials sign a letter agreeing to this order, but they refused, Simanjuntak said.
The pastor said a local official told them that the order was based on a meeting between the local government and nearby residents who objected to worship services. Simanjuntak told Compass that they were invited to a meeting with the residents who objected, the village officials and the head of the Interfaith Harmony Forum for Bekasi City, Haji Hasnul Chloid Pasaribu. Instead of discussing the situation, however, officials immediately gave the church a letter stating that permission for services extended only to Jan. 31.
“The letter was composed after consulting only one side,” said Simanjuntak. “The church aspirations were never heard.”
The church had been worshipping at that location since 2006.
“From the beginning we worked on the permission, starting at the block level and village level,” he said. “At that time we received permission to worship at my home. We never had problems in our relations with the local citizens.”
The church applied for a worship building permit in 2006, but local officials have yet to act on it, he said.
“Are we not allowed to worship while awaiting the building permit?” Simanjuntak said.
Rev. Gomar Gultom, general secretary of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches, said that the organization will formulate a request to the Indonesian Senate to provide solutions for the two churches.
“In the near future, we will meet senators from the law and religion committees to discuss this matter,” Gomar said.
Johnny Simanjuntak of the Indonesian National Human Rights Committee told Compass that the government has failed to carry out its constitutional duty to protect freedom of worship for all citizens.
“Clearly the stoppage of any particular religious activity by the government is proof that the government is neglecting the human rights of its citizens,” he said.
Report from Compass Direct News
Churches burned following assault on Catholic church in volatile Plateau state.
LAGOS, Nigeria, January 19 (CDN) — Gunshots and smoke continued to alarm residents of Jos in central Nigeria today, with the Christian community fearing further violence from Muslim youths who on Sunday (Jan. 17) attacked a Catholic church and burned down several other church buildings.
A 24-hour curfew imposed yesterday in Jos and the suburb of Bukuru by the Plateau state government was extended through Wednesday. Police said continuing violence was initially triggered by Sunday’s unprovoked attack by Muslim youths on worshippers at the St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Nasarawa Gwong, in the Jos North Local Government Area.
Also burned were buildings of the Christ Apostolic Church, Assemblies of God Church, three branches of the Church of Christ in Nigeria and two buildings of the Evangelical Church of West Africa, Christian leaders said.
The number of casualties continued to grow, reportedly reaching more than 100 as security forces tried to rein in rioters, with both Christian and Muslim groups still counting their losses. Hundreds have reportedly been wounded.
“We have been witnessing sporadic shootings in the last two days,” said the Rev. Chuwang Avou, secretary of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. “We see some residents shooting sporadically into the air. We have also seen individuals with machine guns on parade in the state.”
Avou said many of those who are shooting are civilians, not policemen, and that they have been mounting road blocks and causing chaos in the area. At least 35 people have been arrested.
“What we have witnessed only goes to show that the problem in the state is far from over,” he said. “Many families have been displaced. There are a number who are receiving treatment in the hospital. The dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the state has not solved any problem, as there is still tension in the land.”
Avou said the crisis broke out when Muslim youths pursued a woman into a church during worship on Sunday, wreaking havoc on the service.
“Some Muslim youths invaded some churches and started burning and destroying properties,” he said. “We were told that the youths pursued a lady to the church. Nobody knew what the lady did. What we just discovered was that the entire atmosphere was ignited and houses were being burned.”
A Muslim group in the area, however, dismissed claims that Muslim youths ignited the tensions. They accused Christian youths of stopping a Muslim from rebuilding his house.
State Commissioner of Police Greg Anyating stated that Muslim youths were to blame for setting off the violence.
As violence continued today, there was a mass movement of Christians and Muslims from areas where rampaging youths were unleashing mayhem on the city despite heavy security. The Nigerian army was reportedly summoned to try to restore order.
The Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, co-chairman of the state Inter-Religious Council and Catholic Archbishop of Jos, condemned the recurring civil disturbances in the state and called on all to “sheath their swords and be their brothers’ keepers.”
The secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Wale Adefarasin, said attacks on Christians are a manifestation of terrorism in the country.
“What we should realize is that the government is not helping situations,” he said. “It is an illusion that Nigeria is safe.”
He added that terrorism affects both Christians and Muslims negatively, and that it is the duty of elected officials to ensure that terrorists are detected early and deterred.
“The Muslim fundamentalists want to take over Jos by all means,” Pastor Adefarasin said. “They claim that Jos is a Muslim state, which is not true.”
Violence hit the same area on Nov. 28-29, 2008, when murderous rioting sparked by Muslim attacks on Christians and their property left six pastors dead, at least 500 other people killed and 40 churches destroyed, according to church leaders. More than 25,000 persons were displaced in the two days of violence.
What began as outrage over suspected vote fraud in local elections quickly hit the religious fault line as angry Muslims took aim at Christian sites rather than at political targets. Police and troops reportedly killed about 400 rampaging Muslims in an effort to quell the unrest, and Islamists shot, slashed or stabbed to death more than 100 Christians.
The violence comes at a time of a leadership vacuum in Nigeria, with illness requiring Muslim President Umaru Yar’Adua to leave the country on Nov. 23 to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia.
Sectarian violence in Jos, a volatile mid-point where the predominantly Muslim north meets the mainly Christian south, left more than 1,000 people dead in 2001. Another 700 people were killed in sectarian outbreaks of violence in 2004. Located in Nigeria’s central region between the Muslim-majority north and the largely Christian south, Plateau state is home to various Christian ethnic groups co-existing uneasily with Muslim Hausa settlers.
Report from Compass Direct News
New Christians in northwest violently compelled to return to ancestor worship.
HANOI, Vietnam, January 18 (CDN) — A Vietnamese man violently forced to recant his fledgling Christian faith faces pressure from authorities and clansmen to prove his return to traditional Hmong belief by sacrificing to ancestors next month.
Sung Cua Po, who embraced Christianity in November, received some 70 blows to his head and back after local officials in northwest Vietnam’s Dien Bien Province arrested him on Dec. 1, 2009, according to documents obtained by Compass. His wife, Hang thi Va, was also beaten. They live in Ho Co village.
Dien Bien Dong District and Na Son Commune police and soldiers led by policeman Hang A Senh took the Christian couple to the Na Son Commune People’s Committee office after police earlier incited local residents to abuse and stone them and other Christian families. After Po and his wife were beaten at 1 a.m. that night, he was fined 8 million dong (US$430) and a pig of at least 16 kilos. His cell phone and motorbike were confiscated, according to the documents.
Christians Sung A Sinh and Hang A Xa of Trung Phu village were also beaten about the head and back and fined a pig of 16 kilos each so that local authorities could eat, according to the reports. The documents stated that the reason for the mistreatment of the Christians was that they abandoned “the good and beautiful” traditional Hmong beliefs and practices to follow Protestant Christianity.
Christian sources reported that on Dec. 15 police took Po and his wife to members of their extended family, who applied severe clan pressure on him to deny their faith. When police added their own threats, Po finally signed recantation documents.
“I folded – I signed when police threatened to beat me to death if I didn’t recant,” he said. “Then they would seize my property, leaving my wife a widow, and my children fatherless – without a home.”
Following Po’s written recantation, authorities subjected him to further family and clan pressure and “fines,” as well as rites to satisfy traditional Hmong spirits said to have become upset when he offended them by becoming a Christian.
Po faces the ultimate test to prove his recantation is sincere on Feb. 13, Lunar New Year’s Eve. He remains under severe threat, the documents report, unless he voluntarily offers sacrifices to his ancestors at that time.
The documentation of the forced recantations in northwest Vietnam indicates authorities are contravening Vietnam’s 2004/2005 public religion policy.
All three men had received a summons dated Dec. 11, 2009 to appear at the Na Son Commune Peoples’ Committee office at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 15 “to take care of business relating to following the Vang Chu religion.”
The officials’ use of the Vang Chu religion in these documents was said to be significant. Vang Chu is a mythological Hmong savior who, it is believed, will unite and deliver the Hmong. For some time Vietnamese authorities have deliberately misnamed Protestantism as Vang Chu in order to give Christianity a threatening political character. Any real or imagined political opposition provides Vietnamese communists with a carte blanche excuse to apply repressive measures, Christian sources said.
One of the other Christians arrested, Xa, has received another summons handwritten by the chief of Trung Phu village, Hang A Po, “to solve the issue of the Vang Chu religion.” The summons ordered Xa to appear without fail at the home of village chief Po in mid-December and to bring sufficient food, including a 15-to-20 kilo pig, to feed everyone.
“Here is Vietnamese jungle justice on full display – show up at the home of an official to be tormented and bring plenty of food and liquor for your tormentors,” observed one source.
The summons purports to represent district and commune police who will be present, as well as the village chief.
“It is clear that in spite of public national policies outlawing forced recantation, to the contrary, Dien Bien government policy to force new Christian believers to recant is being vigorously implemented,” said one source.
This conclusion is consistent with other findings. In November 2009 religious liberty advocates acquired a Vietnamese language booklet entitled “Some Documents Concerning Religious Belief and Religion.” The 104-page document “For Internal Circulation” was published in November 2007 by the Dien Bien Province Department of Ethnic Minorities.
The collection of documents, including some marked “Secret,” clearly shows Dien Bien religion policies and directives relative to Protestants are different than the “new religion legislation” of 2004/2005. The Dien Bien documents reveal a secret “Guidance Committee 160” is overseeing repressive policies initiated before the new religion legislation of 2004/2005 that continue to guide officials.
“These events and findings in Dien Bien clearly show that the excuse given by our government that such events are isolated exceptions perpetrated by a few bad officials is not believable,” said one church leader.
Report from Compass Direct News
Authorities deny Christian’s application for release.
ISTANBUL, November 9 (CDN) — A Coptic Christian blogger in Egypt held in prison for more than a year without charge said today he will go on a hunger strike unless authorities grant his next application for release.
Hani Nazeer, a 28-year-old high school social worker from Qena, Egypt and author of the blog “Karz El Hob,” received word today that his latest application for release, sent to the Ministry of the Interior a week ago, was denied. His attorneys said they would re-apply for his release tomorrow.
The interior ministry did not “supply the grounds for refusal” according to Rawda Ahamad, Nazeer’s lead defense attorney.
“He has no charges against him,” Ahamad said. “He is not a criminal. He must be released immediately. He’s an innocent man – anyone exposed to this severe injustice would do the same.”
On Oct. 3, 2008, Nazeer was arrested by Egypt’s State Security Investigations (SSI) and sent to Burj Al-Arab prison. Although police never charged him with any crime, Nazeer has been detained for more than a year under Egypt’s administrative imprisonment law.
Nazeer ran afoul of SSI officers a few days before his arrest when a group of local teenagers visited his website and clicked on a link to an online copy of “Azazil’s Goat in Mecca,” a novel written under the pseudonym “Father Utah.” The book is a response to “Azazil,” a novel by Yusuf Zidane, critical of Christianity.
Insulting religion is illegal in Egypt, but the law is enforced unequally. Zidane’s critique of Christianity garnered him fame and awards throughout the Arab world. Nazeer’s website link cost him his freedom, despite the fact that police have never publicly produced any evidence linking Nazeer to Utah’s work. After Nazeer was arrested, posts continued on Utah’s website.
Nazeer has reported to his attorneys that he has been placed in prison with felons, some of them violent. He also claims that prison authorities have pressured him to convert to Islam.
Gamel Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the group representing Nazeer, stood by his client’s accusations, saying police have urged inmates to suggest to Nazeer that officers would work to free him if he were to convert to Islam.
Nazeer’s situation is complicated by the fact that his writings upset both Islamic authorities and the hierarchy of the Coptic Orthodox Church. On one hand, he criticized the increasing Islamization of Egyptian civil society. On the other, he lamented the political involvement of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In one post, Nazeer wrote that a gathering of activists at a Coptic church was inappropriate because churches were meant to be venues for prayer, not for politics.
According to Eid, Nazeer was arrested with the complicity of leaders in the Coptic Orthodox Church. In October of 2008, police detained Nazeer’s relatives at a police station and threatened to hold them until he came out of hiding. Nazeer turned himself into the police station on the advice of Bishop Kirollos of Nag Hammadi, Nazeer reported to his attorneys. Kirollos assured Nazeer he would be detained no more than four days and then be released.
Kirollos had denounced Nazeer to security, Nazeer told his attorneys.
All attempts to reach Kirollos about his alleged involvement in Nazeer’s arrest were unsuccessful. Several attempts to reach Bishop Anba Yoannes, authorized to speak about the case on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s Pope Shenouda III, were also unsuccessful. Egypt’s SSI, a political police force run by the Interior minister, routinely declines to comment on cases.
This week’s application will be sent to a court within the Ministry of the Interior. But under the emergency law, police officials have the power to ignore court orders. When local police execute a court order to release prisoners held under Egypt’s emergency law, security police commonly re-arrest them minutes later.
The law, enacted after the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, allows authorities to hold people without charge. Eid estimated that there are approximately 14,000 people imprisoned under this law. In 2005, while running for re-election, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak promised to replace the contested law. But in May of 2008, the Egyptian government extended the law for two more years.
Mamdouh Nakhla, an attorney and civil rights activist in Egypt, said oppression of Coptic Christians is common and that many police officers in Egypt are the “agents of persecution.” At best, he said, they are complicit in acts of persecution. At worst, he added, police collude with others hostile to Christianity.
“They give green lights to Islamists, and protect them, and give them the feeling that they are immune from prosecution,” he said.
Report from Compass Direct News
Devastating cyclones, bitter ethnic wars, and human rights abuses have all had a part in contributing to the poverty and spiritual darkness that characterizes Mynamar, which was formerly known as Burma, reports Michael Ireland, chief correspondent, ASSIST News Service.
Despite this opposition, the church in Burma is gaining ground against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places, according to a report from Christian Aid.
Christian Aid assists a number of ministries in Burma, which remain unnamed for their security, who submitted the following reports concerning their various strategies for spreading the gospel.
Faith with Works
“I am conducting meetings with the churches, pastors, and workers, exhorting them to stand firm in the faith,” said one ministry leader.
“These are fiery times for testing their faith. The government has put high restrictions on work among the cyclone victims. They presume that what we are doing is for political purposes. (Even Buddhist monks and laymen, interested in helping victims, are being persecuted. Some were caught and sentenced to very long jail terms — 45 to 65 years!).”
Local church planted by native missionaries
“Because of your faithful and consistent support, my workers and I were able to reach 300 Buddhists. We shared about the last days and distributed tracts among them. In another area we were able to distribute rice and used clothing, as well as medicine for the elderly and ailing. This particular tribe lives in a secluded area, so we were able to preach the gospel,” said another leader.
“The mobile clinic you helped open allowed us to treat 1,130 patients. Many of them were elderly, who shed tears of joy. They were so grateful for this display of Christian love.”
Bible Teaching and Training
Yet another brother, who leads a teaching ministry, remembers a time when confusion arose among the churches in Burma due to a lack of theological training.
“This was in the 70’s and even though a revival swept through the country, there were no reputable Bible schools. Church leaders of that era left the country and enrolled in schools in other areas of the world. When they completed their studies, they returned to Burma to launch an indigenous ministry.”
He added: “We began with only four faculty members and 77 students our first year. But despite opposition to the Bible, the Lord, and Christians in general, this ministry is going forward. With help received from Christian Aid recently, we were able to assist 20 more Bible students from the scholarship fund. We also have a Bible correspondence course available for those wanting to learn more about Jesus, or who find it difficult to leave their current ministry for an extended period.”
Church Planting meets needs, builds relationships
“Week-long evangelistic camp meetings in remote towns and villages are held wherever the Lord opens the door,” says another ministry leader.
“Relationships are built by providing for some of their needs, such as food, medicine, and nursing care. The Word is preached and Bibles are given out. When our evangelistic team leaves the village, we leave behind a church planter. In time he will disciple a vessel chosen from the tribe to become the church leader. This new disciple is then brought back to our training center for three months of training. When he returns to his village, he will take over as pastor. Our original worker is then ‘rotated’ into another un-reached area,” explains another Burmese leader.
Christian Aid says that while much has been accomplished, much needs to be done.
The ministry explains: “Many people who survived the cyclone are still without adequate shelter or other basic necessities. More follow-up is needed in the remote villages where the gospel has been heard for the first time. Income generating projects, such as raising pigs or ducks, will help the people re-establish their lives. (Businesses that were destroyed during the cyclone are no longer a source of income.)”
“Please continue to pray for our ministry,” writes Brother G. “My most pressing goal is to witness in every nook and corner of our country before the imminent return of our Lord Jesus.”
Christian Aid seeks to establish a witness f our Lord Jesus Christ among unreached people groups by assisting highly effective native missionaries who already know the language and culture and are getting the job done for less cost.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Two Copts wounded in Minya province over plan to use building as church venue.
ISTANBUL July 31 (Compass Direct News) – The recent eruption of sectarian violence in Egypt’s Minya province continued last week as local Christians again faced harsh reprisals from Muslims for trying to convert a building into a worship facility.
On July 24 security forces in the village of Hawasliya were able to prevent a crowd of Muslims, which numbered in the hundreds according to some reports, from torching the building. But the mob succeeded in setting fire to four neighboring stables, killing sheep and cows belonging to Copts.
During the melee two Copts, including an elderly woman, were wounded. Both received hospital treatment.
“When Muslims see that Christians are making a church, they get upset about it,” said Teresa Kamal, a local journalist. “Why are people full of hate like this? Something has happened to radicalize the people.”
Pastor Milad Shehata, 39, heads up the project to convert the four-story property into a church building. He told Compass that the village’s Protestant Christians had no other place to worship.
“I have no intention of leaving this place at any price,” said Shehata. “This place has been built from the sweat and hard-earned money of very poor people. Even if I or my family is killed, it doesn’t matter. I will not leave this place.”
Shehata had begun to refurbish the building to accommodate church meetings and was planning to apply for permission to use it as a place of worship before holding services on the premises.
On July 23, officers investigating complaints from Muslim villagers about two crosses Shehata had installed on the outside of the building took him to the local police station. After questioning, they released him with orders to return the next morning. At that time two policemen escorted him to the main prison in Minya, where he was held without charge until Saturday afternoon (July 25).
“I don’t know why I was arrested,” said Shehata. “I was there for 37 hours, but no one even gave me even a cup of water.”
Since the attack on July 24, elders from the Muslim community have extended the offer of a reconciliation meeting on condition the church is never opened.
“There is no point in holding a reconciliation meeting if we have to close the church,” said Shehata. “The church is the whole point.”
There have long been drafts of a unified law for the building of places of worship in Egypt aimed at resolving recurrent conflicts faced by new churches. Such legislation, however, has been consistently passed over in parliamentary sessions.
Human rights lawyer Naguib Gobraiel said there was a stark contrast between the freedom to practice religion given to Muslims and that afforded to Christians.
“Muslims can put a mat down anywhere and pray and no one objects,” he said, pointing out the contrast with Christians’ inability to secure worship sites. “Why do they differentiate? It implies that we can’t have private prayers.”
The July 24 incident marks the fourth time in as many weeks that planned new church buildings have sparked violent responses from inhabitants of villages surrounding the city of Minya.
Despite the recent high incidents of sectarian strife, Minya Gov. Ahmad Dia’a El-Din told Compass that inter-faith relations are not as strained as they may seem.
“These kinds of attacks are not as frequent as some people imagine,” he said. “They are not happening night and day. The proof is the businesses – you find many shops owned by Copts. People live together and Copts are wealthy, they are doing fine business.”
El-Din seemed eager to demonstrate that he led by example.
“I personally work closely with Christian people and have good relationships with them,” he said. “I harbor no personal animosity.”
Gobraiel, however, was not impressed.
“The governorate of Minya has the highest level of radicalization and intolerance,” he said. “The governor has totally failed in tackling this issue from all different aspects – education, media, culture and security.”
Report from Compass Direct News