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Egypt’s Coptic Christians Demonstrate against Governor in Upper Egypt

Egypt’s Coptic Christians staged a massive demonstration against the Governor of Minya Ahmed Dia-el-Din, calling for his resignation.

Coptic demonstration against the governor of Minya

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Service (AINA), the Feb. 28 demonstration was prompted by the governor’s decision to demolish a church community center for the care of the handicapped, located in the village of Deir Barsha, in Mallawi, Minya Governorate.

AINA said over 10,000 demonstrators, mainly from the village of Deir Barsha, were joined by Copts from the neighboring village of Deir Heness.

AINA said they marched to the local council in Deir Barsha, holding slogans calling on the governor to resign and chanted, “Go, go after your master (Mubarak)” and “We stopped giving bribes, so now you want to demolish the center.”

After the demonstration was over, more than 200 Copts refused to leave the handicapped center and staged an open-ended sit-in until the governor revokes his demolition order.

AINA said the five-storey community center, which cost four million Egyptian pounds, belongs to the Coptic diocese of Mallawi and serves children and youth with special needs from 75 villages all over the Minya governorate. It has a workshop to teach them a suitable vocation, as well as a free day clinic.

AINA said the governor wanted to demolish the services building in Jan. 2011, but could not because of the Coptic anger and demonstrations all over Egypt after the massacre of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, where a bomb killed 25 Copts and injured nearly 100.

“Those children and youth, some of them cannot talk or do anything for themselves,” said one demonstrator, “so why deprive them of the place which can help them? It is utterly inhuman. This building was inaugurated by the governor himself four years ago and all licenses and papers are fully correct. Suddenly he wants to demolish it.”

AINA said Coptic priest Father Antonious Bouchra, who is in charge of the community center, met with the village council officials in an effort to find a solution. He said that nearly 500 Coptic women demonstrated a few days ago in front of the council and stormed the meeting, forcing a reconvening in the afternoon with the Mallawi city council director.

“The director pretended he had no idea about the demolition order and we felt he was procrastinating,” AINA reported Bouchra said, “but he promised to put the matter to the governor and explain that the situation is urgent and explosive as the Copts are enraged and insist on keeping the center open.”

In another incident in the series of continued provocation of the Copts, the Governor of Minya ordered the demolition for no apparent reason, of ten newly built homes belonging to three Coptic families in the village of Saeed Abdelmassih, 30 km from Minya.

AINA reported villagers said that the governor asked the families to pay one million pounds as a voluntary contribution to the governorate in order not to pull down the houses and when they refused they were asked to donate one-fifth of the land to build a mosque near St. Demiana Church.

The owners also denied his request as all inhabitants of the village are Copts and no Muslims live there. This prompted the governor to carry out the demolition of the homes on Feb. 28 by the police and army forces.

AINA said the new Freedom and Equality Party called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Feb. 28, to fire the governor of Minya and accused him and others of causing sectarian strife in the governorate.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an NGO that monitors the situation of religious freedoms in Egypt, published a two-year report from Jan. 2008 to Jan. 2010.

According to the report, AINA said, there have been at least 53 incidents of sectarian violence or tension against Copts by Muslims (about two incidents a month) that have taken place in 17 of Egypt’s 29 governorates, with Minya coming on top with 21 incidents.

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