This is the third time in two weeks that Christians have been attacked due to suspicion of church construction. On June 30 and on July 15, Coptic homes were looted and destroyed by Muslim mobs who were driven to violence by similar rumors.
The July 17 attack began one day earlier as Muslim villagers watched Fr. Metaos Naguid Hanna, priest of Mar Mina Coptic Orthodox church in Tahna Al-Gabal, enter into a new building in the western part of the village. This led the Muslim onlookers to believe that the building would be turned into a church.
The attack unfolded the following day after a group of young Muslim men attacked Fr. Metaos’ 8-year-old son, Mikhail, outside of his house. After rushing out to attend to his grandson, Naguib Hanna, 80, began reprimanding the Muslim men. Naguib was joined by some Coptic neighbors when the Muslim men began attacking them with clubs and knives.
“In less than a minute, more than 100 Muslims joined and began to fight with Copts, indicating that the attack was organized,” A Christian resident told ICC, “Pham Mari Khalaf was killed in the attack due to a stab to the heart, while Naguib Hanna, father of R. Metaos, was stabbed several times in the face.”
In all, one Christian was killed and three more were wounded in the attack. Police did not arrive until two hours after the initial attack, though they were called at the start. Naguib Hanna and his son-in-law Malak Aziz Hanna were hospitalized at the Good Shephard Hospital with critical injuries. Both are now in stable condition.
On Monday, July 18, the Bishop of the Minya Diocese and another eight priests held a prayer service in honor of martyred Pham Khalan. During the funeral and after, thousands of Christians in the village sang out, “With our blood we will redeem you, Cross.” Their shouts of praise and worship nearly shook the walls of the building, according to those who attended the event.
Sandra Elliot, ICC’s Program Coordinator, said, “After two attacks in one weekend, ICC weeps for the Christian communities in Minya. This terror cannot continue unabated. Suspicion of church construction should not incite the killing of innocent men. There are no words for this tragedy and the total injustice on the side of apathetic and unresponsive security forces in Egypt. It is a travesty that the police authorities continually ignore these attacks. Egypt must do more to secure the lives and properties of all its citizens, including and especially Christians.”