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Muslim mobs force 8 Egyptian churches to close

by Tola Mbakwe

According to Christian lawyer Gamil Ayed, villagers have been protesting bids to secure legal recognition for church buildings. Two years ago, the Egyptian government introduced a law giving churches the same legal rights as mosques.

While an estimated 3,500 churches continue to wait for their official legal status, the government has allowed unlicensed churches to continue to meet.

Ayed told World Watch Monitor: "We haven't heard that a mosque was closed down or the prayer was stopped in it because it was unlicensed. Is that justice? Where is the equality? Where is the religious freedom? Where is the law? Where are the state' institutions?"

The Virgin Mary and St Mohrael Coptic Orthodox church, south of the city of Luxor, had to shut down on 22nd August after a church member said Muslim mobs were attacking it.

"A great deal of Muslim young men, aged 16 – 26, from our and nearby villages gathered in front of our church building, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) and chanting hostile slogans against Copts and the church, such as 'We don't want a church in our Islamic village'," church member Moheb Thabet told World Watch Monitor.

"They tried to break the front door... but we locked [it] from the inside.

"We immediately called the police who arrived and dispersed the demonstrators but they didn't arrest anyone.

"They then closed the church building, sealed it and placed security guards with it, and security forces cordoned off the village' streets".

He said the violence started after rumours started that the government was going to formally recognise the churches.

It's been reported police ended up arresting five Christians and 15 Muslims in the altercation.

The Copts were charged with praying in an unlicensed place.

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