By Watani –
The priests of the de-facto church in the Minya village of Ezbet Naguib in Matai, some 220km south of Cairo, have filed an application to Minya Governor asking for licence to conduct religious rites in the building they have been using as a church, but which was not licensed as such.
Ezbet Naguib is home to some 400 Copts who until recently had no church. For years, a priest used to visit them every week to hold Mass in one of the Copts’ homes, but this became increasingly difficult as the congregation grew. Finally, Matai diocese purchased a 300sq.m multi-storey house from one of the Copts, and used it to house a church named after the Holy Virgin, the Archangels, and the Hermit Fathers; as well as offices, a hall, and guest rooms. But the church was never licensed.
On Holy Thursday, 25 April this year, a large congregation attended Mass at the unlicensed church. This apparently drew the attention and hostility of the Muslim villagers who hastened to file complaints with the police that the Copts were worshipping in a building not licensed for worship. The police arrived and attempted to thwart any prospective violence by protecting the church and the Copts during Good Friday prayers, Midnight Mass of the Resurrection, and Easter Monday Mass. Then the police closed down the church, demanding of the Copts to obtain the necessary license for it, and promising to help speed up the procedure so that it would take no more than two months. Until then, however, the church would remain closed.
The local security officials also brokered a conciliation deal between elders of the Coptic and Muslim communities in Ezbet Naguib, and persuaded the Muslims to withdraw the complaints they had filed, dropping thus chances for any legal proceedings.