Copts protest against besieging services center in Minya

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CAIRO: Hundreds of Copts from Al-Kamader village in Minya protested late on Tuesday in front of the governorate building after a rumor that a service center would be transformed into a church led a group of Muslims to besiege the facility.

The "Mary Yohana" service center used for prayers is one of many such facilities whose licenses would only be issued by the former State Security Investigations under the former regime.

Coptic protesters demanded to be allowed again inside the center, asking the governorate to issue proper licenses to transform it into a church.

They also appealed to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to protect them from Salafi groups who, they claimed, threatened to storm the center and demolish it.

Protesters chanted many slogans like "Oh army you should hear, a church is like a mosque" and "Egyptians Egyptians, Christians like Muslims".

The protesters said that for the past 11 years, the facility had been the only place the 1,500 Christian residents of the village could pray in. Christian residents of the surrounding Defshen and Al-Tiba villages also use it.

Priest Estafanos Shihata of Samalut Archbishopric told Daily News Egypt in a telephone interview that 1,500 of what he called "extremists" continued in besieging the center, threatening to storm it and demolish it.

"The prayers center was built 11 years ago and licensed by state security. But some of the building’s walls cracked because of rain last January so we appealed to many institutions including the SCAF to get a license to restore it," he said.

"Surprisingly, we found many extremists surrounding the building and preventing us from entering."

He said that police arrested an unknown number of Coptic protesters who were protesting in front of the governorate’s headquarters, adding that "Copts won’t end their strike unless their demands are met".

Lawyer Naguib Gobrael sent a memo to the head of SCAF, Field Marshal Hussien Tantawi, demanding the protection of Copts.

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