(AINA) -- Violence against Egyptian Christians erupted yesterday in the village of Zakaria, located in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya. Zakaria has a population of 4000, split evenly between Christians and Muslims. The violence began after a Muslim family accused Kirollos Sabet, 22, of having an illicit relationship with a Muslim woman, also 22.
According to a statement by Anba Makarios, Bishop of Minya, Muslim villagers assembled where the family of Mr. Sabet lives, broke into their furniture and household appliances stores, looted its contents and then destroyed it, looted an adjacent electrical appliances warehouse and a family-owned taxi. Security forces arrived in the village to restore order, but loud speakers were inciting sedition, and hard-line Muslims prowled the streets of the village throwing stones at Coptic homes and calling for revenge.
Under the supervision of Major General Osama Metwally, director of Minya security, a customary "reconciliation" meeting was held yesterday in the presence of the heads of Muslim and Christian families in the region, a number of mayors and the families of the accused man and woman. No church representative was present. The meeting decided that Mr. Sabet was to pay the amount of 300,000 Egyptian pounds and the Muslim woman 150,000 pounds, because she willingly met the man. But because the woman is poor and cannot pay the amount, it was decided to add her fine to the fine of Mr. Sabet. When Mr. Sabet and his family protested this decision the arbitrators decided to expel Mr. Sabet and his five brothers from the village.
The Bishop warns that Muslim villagers are now prowling the village chanting against the Copts, demanding the burning of their churches, homes and shops. "A state of extreme tension prevails in the Zakaria village and is spreading to neighboring villages, which could result in a new wave of violence against the Copts."