By Middle East Monitor –
Editor’s note: The Copts arrested in this incident were released several days later.
Egyptian security forces have arrested 14 Copts and assaulted a priest in Beheira who were protesting against the destruction of their church in the village of Kom Al-Darah in Abdul Haq.
Security forces fired tear gas at the protesters and assaulted Priest Jesse Sobhi who tried to stop the demolition. Four women were among the 14 arrested, according to the Copts United website.
Copts United also reported that security personnel went to the houses of Copts and confiscated their national identification cards.
The church’s lawyer, Ghali Iskander, says the Copts have been using the church for 15 years before the Abu Al-Matamir city council issued a decision to have it removed.
Despite lodging an appeal, security forces went ahead with the destruction without waiting for the court ruling. They also razed a mosque in the village.
Despite the fact that the government officially supports its Coptic community, in practice this is not the case. In fact, critics have said that the Copts fare worse under this government than any other of its predecessors.
Copts in Egypt – where religion is listed on your identity card – find it hard to join football teams, obtain high positions within universities and schools and have been excluded from the intelligence service and state security.
Christian history isn’t even on the school syllabus.
Egypt’s Copts have often complained that Egyptian authorities do very little to protect Egypt’s Christians, including from mob attacks, which take place regularly in the countryside, which creates a culture of impunity and encouragement.
On 9 October 2011 Copts marched to the Maspero state television building in Cairo to peacefully protest the authorities’ failure to hold people who attack churches accountable.
That night one of the worst massacres of Christians in modern Egypt took place when armoured military APCs drove through the crowd and killed at least ten demonstrators. There were over 20 deaths in total and more than 200 were injured.
Photo Credit: Egyptian Coptic Christian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against assault on churches, 15 April 2016 [Tarek Al-Gabas/ApaImages]