For over a year, Christians in the village of Saft Al-Kharsa have been trying to get a permit to build their church and the government keeps delaying them. For the time, they have been forced to worship in local community center. According to a recent report, local authorities seized the building from the Christians and then to make matters worse took all of the furniture, icons, and other objects and dumped them in the street:
Authorities in Egypt reportedly raided a church-owned building that was being used by a local Coptic Christian community for worship and chained down the doors so that Christians could no longer enter the building.
After police removed furniture, Christian iconography and other items from the building, they closed down the building using chains, an unnamed Christian villager told ICC..
“During the early hours of Friday, June 16, we [Christians] were surprised to find the furniture, rugs, icons, pictures, and worship utensils … had been thrown outside and the building closed down with seals and chains,” the Coptic Christian villager was quoted as saying. “We took the belongings into our homes. We don’t know why the police did that.”
The press release notes that the building had been used by the local Coptic Christian community as a church and a community center. The local Christians have tried to have the building legally recognized as a church since 2016 but have faced backlash from radical Muslims and resistance from the government.
“We were livid at the recent police raid against the building. The behavior by the police was inexplicable,” the church’s priest told ICC. “I demanded the Interior Minister [launch] an urgent investigation into the incident.”
The day after the government raided the church, 50 religious leaders met with Gov. Habib and demanded an adequate church building for the Christians in Saft Al-Kharsa and that the building be licensed as a community center that can legally hold worship services.
However, ICC states that the governor claimed that the building was in a state of disrepair and that he ordered it to be demolished.
“Clerics reminded the governor that this building was not life-threatening and that they had been trying to gain legalization in accordance with the law since 2016,” the press release explains, adding the governor eventually ordered the building be reopened as a community center. However, the governor ordered that no worship could be held there until a permit was received from the prime minister. The governor promised to address the prime minister about this issue in a timely manner. (source)