Calm returned to Ezbat al-Forn, of Abyouha village in Abu Qurqas city of Minya governorate on Monday, following skirmishes Sunday between Christians and Muslims.
According to head of Abu Qurqas city council, Brigadier Mohamed Salah, fights broke out on Sunday after some Coptic citizens in the village of Ezbat al-Forn tried to pray at the house of a citizen under the guidance of a priest, prompting some Muslims to intercept for not possessing a license.
Abu Qurqas prosecutors ordered the seizure of the house, until administrative authorities decide on whether or not to transfer a license and turn it into a church.
They also ordered the arrest of suspects in the fight.
Major General Essam al-Bedaiwy, governor of Minya, confessed to tensions between Muslims and Copts in some “very limited” areas of Minya .
“The state has a comprehensive plan to break into the strongholds of social tensions in the governorate, which lead to the emergence of the so-called sectarian strife, although it is not sectarian,” the governor said.
Similar clashes recur in some Minya areas like Samalut and Abu Qurqas when Christians buy a house and hold prayers inside regularly without obtaining a license. Muslim residents will interfere to prevent clashes, he added.
The security authorities, Muslim imams and Christian priests then often interfere to contain situations, after which an official request, that is often approved, is made to transfer the house into a church, Bedaiwy said in a press statement.
Delays in the response of a request sometimes occures due to social conditions, he pointed out.
Bedaiwy stressed that any person has the right to perform prayer however they choose.
Coptic Christians in Ezbat al-Forn said Sunday that security forces prevented them from holding mass and daily prayers, as the church is not licensed.
One of the worshipers told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the church is a staple of the Christian community, which consists of over 300 people, as they regularly hold prayers on the site.
Church sources said that security forces prevented the worshipers and the priest from accessing the church, so they worshiped in the street.
Salah said that the Coptic Christians in the area bring a priest with them every Sunday, and attempt to hold their rituals in homes not licensed for prayer.
He pointed out that this led to the intervention of security services to prevent both sides from clashing, adding that no arrests were made.
Christians make up about ten percent of Egypt’s population of over 93 million people. Christians complain about unfair treatment, including rules, they say, make it easier to build a mosque than a church.
Clashes often erupt between Copts and Muslims over land, church construction or sectarian tension.
Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm