Members of an ethnic religious group from North Africa but primarily Egypt, where they are the largest Christian denomination in the country. Orthodox Christians in the small village of Samalout, 137 miles south of Cairo, unexpectedly received permission from local authorities to rebuild their destroyed church building. Permits to build or rebuild local village churches in Egypt are rarely granted and usually bring strong Muslim opposition.
However, when the construction work started last week, Muslim extremists in the village stirred up a group to forcibly stop the work. Eventually, the Samalout police department called for a meeting between leaders from the church and more than 100 Muslims from the village who didn’t want the church rebuilt. Police attempted to persuade the angry crowd to allow the construction of the church to take place with without opposition.
After the meeting ended with no resolution, the angry Muslims returned to the village. They took to the streets, shouting: “Egypt will become an Islamic State.” They also chanted hostile slogans against Christians and stoned the houses of some Christians. That brought fear to the hearts of peaceful Christians of the village.
Although Christians had legal permission to build the church, the hardness of fanatic Muslims in their village did not allow them to build their church. Moreover, the Christians villagers are now under frequent attacks and harassment as a punishment for their desire to build their church. Meanwhile, the police didn’t want to engage in a clash with the radical Muslims in the village, fearing that the situation could fall out of control. Later Muslims from the village and the police reached an agreement after negotiations, according to an update from a Christian leader. The Muslims listed conditions the Christians must follow to rebuild the church. The six conditions are:
· The church must be built on only 400-square meters of the total property with no steeple, no church bell, no crosses and no construction of any type that shows the building as a church
· The church building must be only one floor
· The entrance should not be by the main road, but by the side walkway
· Representatives from the Muslim community must be present when the concrete foundation of the church building is laid down to make sure that the foundation is only made for a one-floor building
· If the new church building is knocked down or burned for any reason, it must never be rebuilt again
· The conditions above, once accepted by the church, must be legally registered so the Christians could never be able to negotiate them again
Just close your eyes for a few moments and try hard to imagine yourself as a Christian living in Samalout in southern Egypt. What would you be thinking, doing or feeling right now?
Please pray for Christians in Samalout, who, like many other Christians in Egypt, face harassment and harsh restrictions by Muslim extremists on a daily basis.
Egypt is ranked No. 23 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.