Muslim extremists burn down Christian homes in southern Egypt ahead of Coptic Easter

(Photo: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi congratulates Pope Tawadros II with the opening of the Cathedral of the Nativity. Photo:

Houses belonging to Christians were set on fire late on April 23 in Egypt's southern Minya province, the most recent of similar acts of sectarian violence against the country's religious minority.

The attacks erupted less than two weeks before the Coptic Orthodox Easter celebrations.

"The attacks are believed to have been triggered by an attempt to build a new church in Al-Fawakher village in Minya met by the violent rejection of their Muslim neighbors," a source inside Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church told The New Arab.

"When religious fanatics failed to expel Christians from their homes as a form of punishment, the extremists [reportedly] burned down their houses while they were still inside," added the source, who asked to remain anonymous as the subject is highly sensitive.

Egypt's Christians have long demanded equal rights with the Muslim majority and to be able to build new worship premises freely.

In the early hours of April 24, Archbishop Makarios of Minya, home to at least a third of Egypt's Christian population, posted on his official Facebook page that the authorities had contained the situation and arrested the suspects. He did not elaborate.

The New Arab reported that the Egyptian authorities had not yet released an official statement on the incident until the time of publication.

"Discrimination against Christians is relatively subtle in main cities like the capital, Cairo, or Alexandria but becomes much more pronounced in the south," the newspaper commented.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recorded at least 77 attacks on Coptic Christians between 2011 and 2016 in Minya, hosting a majority of the country's Christians.

Bishop Makarios himself survived an assassination attempt over a decade ago.

The New Araba reported that Copts are banned from holding sovereign ministerial positions or sensitive posts at security agencies and they can also not legally run for presidential elections.

Christians are also legally forced to follow Islamic Law Sharia in most matters, except marriage and divorce, according to the publication.

Women have fought endlessly for their right to have equal shares of inheritance with men but without success.

No accurate percentage of Christians in Muslim-majority Egypt has been officially released.

However, they are believed to make up approximately 10 to 15 percent of the nearly 110 million population; most are Coptic Orthodox, among the world's oldest Christian communities, according to The New Arab.

The CIA World Factbook website says that in Egypt, Christians include Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, Maronite, Orthodox, and Anglicans and makeup 10 percent of the population.

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