(AINA) -- On Monday, October 3, Muslims surrounded St. Mary's Church in the Upper Egyptian village of Elmadmar, Tema district, Sohag province, in an effort to demolish it. The Muslims blocked the road to the church and hurled bricks at the building. Church personnel contacted the authorities. "For the first time, security came and in big numbers," said activist George Bouchra.
None of the assailants were arrested.
According to the priest of the church, Muslims came early before 8 AM and held banners with "No to the Church" and demanded that no prayers be held. He described the assailants as young people under the leadership of some village Muslims, "whom I know by name."
The Muslims insisted that it was never a church but a house that was turned into a church. This was refuted by the priest, who said the church was built eight years ago, to be used as a church and belongs to the Coptic Diocese. "It has state security approval to operate, but its license is still pending." The church was used once a month and a mass has been held every Saturday for five months. Muslims claim that we hold a mass every day at 4 PM, and we ring the church bell, which the church does not have, besides singing hymns, which they claim disturbs them."
Although, Elmadmar is inhabited by 15,000 Christians, it has only one other church on the other side of the village, which also serves neighboring villages.
"The problem in Elmadmar village has been brewing for some time," said Bouchra. "We have been watching it for some time now." He added that in spite of the current calm and the presence of the security forces one cannot be optimistic, because the Muslims are still insisting that the church should be closed.
By Mary Abdelmassih