Near the southern Egyptian city of Samalout, Christians in a small village faced an incident of oppression that has left them calling on the name of the Lord to intervene.
The 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 village had received permission from authorities to rebuild their destroyed church building. This was an extraordinary development since Christians in Egypt are generally not allowed to build any new churches, or renew, remodel or repair any existing church facilities unless permission from the highest authority in the city is obtained, and such permission is rarely granted.
Although the church amazingly obtained permission, on March 3, local Muslims gathered and attempted to forcibly stop the work. Eventually, the Samalout police department called for a meeting between church leaders, and more than 100 Muslims from the village who angrily expressed their objections to having the church rebuilt in their village.
Police authorities tried to persuade the angry crowd to allow the construction of the church without future opposition. After the meeting ended without a resolution, the Muslims returning to their village at about eleven at night formed a small demonstration, shouting fervently, “Egypt will become an Islamic State!” They chanted hostile slogans against Christians and stoned the houses of Christians along the way.
Later in the week, negotiations between the police department and the Salafist Muslims in Samalout eventually reached an agreement. The Muslims set forth a list of conditions that the Christians must abide by in order to rebuild their church. The conditions are:
- The church may be built on only 400 sq. meters of the total property, with no steeple, no church bell, no crosses and no indications of any kind that identifies the building as a church.
- The church building can only be one floor.
- The entrance cannot not be by the main road; instead it must be on a side walkway.
- Representatives from the Muslim community must be present when the concrete foundation of the church building is laid so they can make sure that the foundation is only made for a one story building.
- If the new church building is knocked down or burned for any reason, it can never be rebuilt.
- The conditions above, once accepted by the church, will be legally registered and that Christians can never negotiate with them again.
It is becoming increasingly common in Egypt that when the church obtains legal permission to build, the inflexibility of radical Muslims in their village prevents them from building their church. Moreover, the Christian community often suffers attacks and harassment by these Muslims as a punishment for their attempts to build their church.
Meanwhile, the police, whose purpose it is to enforce law and preserve order, justice and equality, are hesitant to engage in a confrontational clash with Muslims in the village over an issue related to Christians as they fear that the situation may quickly spiral out of control.
Father, we pray for Your watchful care over the construction of this church, and your protection over it once it is built. We give thanks for Your provision and pray that those who worship there will be a beacon of light and hope to those around them. We pray for favor and improved relationships with the Muslim community and for opportunities to share the gospel with them. As David prayed in Psalm 144, “Part your heavens, Lord, and come down; … [that] there will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.” We pray this with thanksgiving in the name of Jesus—Immanuel, God with Us, Amen.