A church that recently applied for a government license in Egypt's Beni Suef governorate has been attacked by villagers on the same day a committee came to inspect the building.
World Watch Monitor has reported that the Virgin Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Church in Beni Meinin was attacked on April 14 just after inspectors from the Building Authority Committee came to visit the building.
The church, which has 700 members, has been in use for a decade, and it had applied for an expansion of the building.
Muslim villagers reportedly raided the church and some nearby Coptic homes at 7:00 p.m. after learning about the inspection.
"Many Muslim young men from our village and villages nearby gathered in front of the church building and began pelting it with stones and bricks while shouting 'Allahu akbar' [Allah is the greatest], and 'We don't want a church in our village,'" resident Medhat Halim said, according to World Watch Monitor.
"Windows and a door were smashed and some of the church's contents destroyed. They also pelted Coptic-owned houses next to the building. Five Copts received minor injuries," he added.
Police have arrested 20 Muslims and 12 Christians in connection with the incident, but some were released the next morning.
World Watch Monitor noted that 11 Muslims and nine Christians were initially detained for four days, but later extended to 15 days on charges of "gathering" and possession of unlicensed arms.
Villagers reportedly attacked more Coptic homes, just two days after the attack on the church. Christian resident Magdy Nady claimed that some villagers held a meeting in their mosque in an effort to incite people against the Christians.
"After the meeting they set fire to a wood store owned by my brother, and four other houses," Nady narrated.
Nady asserted that the police were conniving with the attackers, as five Christians were reportedly arrested while they were trying to extinguish the fires.
"We were attacked, our homes destroyed, some of us arrested -- where are our rights? The Muslim villagers are now pressing us to reconcile under the condition that we close the church. We refuse to do that," he added.
At least 16 Copts were reportedly arrested by the police in connection with the attack on Coptic homes. Nady contended that the arrests were made so that the Copts would be forced into a Customary Reconciliation Session, in which the Christians would have to agree to give up their plans to obtain a license for their church in exchange for an end to the rioting.
Meanwhile, Egypt's Cabinet has passed a measure that aims to legalize 166 churches and buildings across the country.
The legislation, approved on Wednesday, was introduced by a committee that was created by the Cabinet to rectify the status of unlicensed churches.
The committee has been tasked with verifying the applications of congregations that want to obtain licenses for churches and attached buildings.
As many as 2,500 requests for licenses has been received by the Coptic Orthodox Church, with some of the church buildings dating back to 150 years, according to church sources.