But the church was now at risk thanks to the “crime” of construction. The church had become too small to host Sunday school classes and other church activities, so they had decided to add onto their building. This caused outrage from the Christians’ fellow—and non-Christian—villagers. “We decided to build an extra two stories on the church hall for church activities such as Sunday school classes, which was legal for us to do,” explains church member and deacon Bishoy during a recent a phone call. “But as soon as we started the building work, extremist Muslims attacked us. Luckily, this first attack was stopped by moderate Muslims in our village.”
But the extremists didn’t give up. When parishioners headed to church for prayers one morning, they saw radicals had illegally started building a mosque on the farm land right next to the church. “We believe they built it out of protest,” Bishoy says. “Our village already has four mosques and another one wasn’t really needed. On top of that, they built it without a foundation.”
The solution the local authorities came up with was as brutal as it was incomprehensible. The mayor of the village ordered that the illegal mosque had to be demolished—but so did the legal church building. “The church lawyer made an official appeal against this order but the mayor ignored it—despite being informed—and sent 200 policemen without warning,” says Bishoy.