International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on Sunday, September 10, local authorities in Egypt's Minya Governorate reopened St. Mary and St. Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Ezbat Al-Forn and St. Paula Coptic Orthodox Church in Kidwan village. Security authorities routinely close Egypt's churches under the pretext that their existence would spark community controversy. However, the local Muslim community united with the Christian community in advocating for the reopening of Minya's closed churches, leading President al-Sisi to recommend that the security authorities reopen the two churches.
Dahi Abdul Salam, the Muslim mayor of Ezbat Al-Forn, told ICC, "There was no form of objection from the beginning by the village Muslims for our Coptic brothers to pray in their church. We formed a delegation of Muslims from the village; we went to the security leaders and leaders of the intelligence sector where we affirmed our appreciation for the need of our Coptic brothers in the village for a place to pray. We (Muslims) pray anywhere and see that it is the right of our brothers Copts to pray as well."
The reopening of the St. Mary and St. Michael Coptic Orthodox Church occurred 20 days after security officials forced its doors to close. Minya police were present during the Holy Mass and some Muslims attended to offer congratulations on the reopening of the church. The church's priest, Father Paula Bebawy, expressed his thanks for the neighboring Muslims' support. "We are grateful to them because they showed Egyptian citizenship effectively. Every prayer held in the church is good for Egypt and for all Egyptians. We pray in the Mass that Egypt may be blessed. And we pray for our leaders, soldiers, and our borders."
Gratitude was further offered in a statement offered by the Diocese of Minya and Abu Qurqas who specifically thanked President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for his response to their pleas and the promise of officials to speedily reopen the rest of Minya's closed churches. The statement also echoed the thankfulness of local Christians for the assistance from their Muslim neighbors.
Nady, a local Christian resident of Ezbat Al-Forn, told ICC, "We thank God who listened to our prayers and suffering by moving the hearts of the officials. We thank President al-Sisi for his response to our appeal and for ordering the officials in Minya to reopen our church. We also thank Anba Macarius, the General Bishop of Minya, for standing with us and defending our right since the beginning of the crisis until now. And we thank our Muslim brothers in the village for standing with us and for their genuine love which was showed to us during the crisis." Another resident added, "We are very happy that our church has been reopened and we can now freely pray there at any time."
Claire Evans, ICC's Regional Manager, added,"Reopening these two churches in Minya is a positive step forward in allowing Egypt's Christians the opportunity to exercise their right to worship and practice their faith. However, this process further demonstrates how Egypt's security forces will close a church, citing local objections even when none are present. The opportunity to peacefully practice one's religious faith is a right which should not be denied. The Egyptian government should quickly make good on its promise to open the churches which remain closed and take steps that would prevent future closures based on false allegations."
Courtesy: International Christian Concern. To read my Christian persecution news, visit www.persecution.org
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: September 13, 2017