Copts in Nazlet al-Nakhl village in Minya claim to have been banned from performing the mass by security on Sunday over alleged fears of attacks by extremists against them.
However, security sources denied this, saying the place where the prayers were taking place was not licensed as a church. Freedom to perform religious rituals is protected by the Constitution and that security personnel deployed to protect freedoms cannot prevent prayers, the sources added.
Meanwhile, residents said security surrounded Mar Mina church to prevent worshippers, who gathered at 5 am, from entering the church. One of the Copts said security services prioritize outlaws and surrender to some opponents without considering the Copts' feelings. “Why should Copts pay the price every time?” he wondered.
Another worshipper said that what happened is a prayer ban and denial of our rights. “Muslims did not reject us performing our prayers. None of them offended us,” he said. “The problem is with small number of people and low-ranking officials who always try to impose their control on every occasion.”
Bishop Makarios of Minya and abu Qerqas said he has been trying to stop security services interrupting religious rituals, with no results, adding that several security officials promised him that prayers will be resumed at the church over the coming few weeks.
“As the crisis was aggravated today, there was the possibility that security personnel would clash with the people. Bishop Botros Aziz is still banned from accessing the village. Thus I proposed that all worshippers gather at one of the people’s homes to perform mass there, so as to prevent strife,” he added.
“We await actions by security to resolve the problem and confirm the sovereignity of government as well as citizenship rights,” he concluded.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm