CAIRO: Things didn’t go as planned Tuesday night in Minya when church representatives refused to attend celebrations marking the end of the Abo Fana dispute between monks and Arab tribes.
In turn, the event held at Mowas Monastery Center was transformed into a Ramadan ceremony honoring those who have memorized the Quran as well as top thanawiya amma graduates in the governorate.
“The celebrations were scheduled for Tuesday but neither Father Demetrious nor I, as the representative of Pope Shenouda III, nor any of the Abo Fana monks could attend the event especially that our children, whether Christians or Muslims, are still behind bars…we will celebrate when they trial ends and they are out of prison, Eid Labib, member of the arbitration committee, told the local press.
Last Sunday, a Minya judge ruled that 15 people involved in the Abo Fana monastery clashes last May be detained for an extra 45 days, ignoring the defense committee’s request to postpone the ruling for one week when the final settlement was to be signed.
“As a representative of Pope Shenouda III, we refuse any settlement of the criminal case and we are leaving it in the hands of the judicial system, Labib said at the time.
On his part, MP Alaa Hassanein, member of the arbitration committee announced that whether or not a settlement is reached regarding the criminal case, celebrations will be held on Tuesday, marking the end of the land dispute which, he believes, is the core of the conflict.
The Coptic Church in Minya and the Arab tribes had reached an agreement on Aug. 13 whereby the Abo Fana Monastery will waive 25 acres of agriculture land and 70 acres of non-agricultural land bringing the total land of the monastery to 505 acres instead of an original 600 acres.
In exchange, the Arab tribes approved the building of a wall marking the monastery’s land and for the people involved in the clashes to be tried in court without any appeal to civil society councils, reported the Middle East News Agency (MENA) at the time.
At the end of May, clashes over land surrounding the Abo Fana Monastery in Mallawi, broke out between monks and some 60 Bedouins living in the Qasr Hur village adjacent to the monastery.
The attack was apparently sparked by a wall being built around the monastery. Although the monastery had received official approval for the wall it began building around neighboring property, Muslim residents protested against the wall in the surrounding agricultural land, claiming it would damage the crops. They also claimed to own the land surrounding the monastery.