Coptic officials and Minya locals called on authorities to help put an end to sectarian violence in the Upper Egypt governorate after families of two priests in the Tahna El-Jabal village were attacked by assailants wielding knives and batons on Sunday, killing a 27-year-old man and injuring three others, including a woman.
According to an Ahram Arabic website correspondent in Minya, most eyewitnesses and security sources stated that the attack started as an argument between young Muslim men and Christian children over right of way on the narrow streets of the village.
The disputing parties then involved the families of the Christian children, including the son of the local church’s pastor according to the eyewitnesses.
A security source told Ahram Arabic website that 4 suspects from the Muslim party were arrested and are accused of attacking the Christian families. The source added that one 15-year-old suspect was on the run.
Earlier Monday, the funeral of Fam Mary, the 27-year-old man killed in the fight, was held and attended by the Christians in the village who demanded justice for their neighbor.
Bishop Macarius of Minya and Abu Qirqas criticised the government’s handling of what happened to be the third sectarian-related incident in the Upper Egyptian governorate over the last two months.
“As a reminder only, Mr. President, Christian Copts are Egyptians,” the Bishop said on his official Twitter account on Sunday.
The secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Raphaeil, slammed the governor of Minya as well local leaders in the area.
“A question to the executive powers in Egypt: does what happens in Minya on a daily basis — meaningless humiliation and murder of Christian Copts — require a change in local leadership?” He said.
Al-Azhar, the country’s top Sunni Muslim authority, called on both sides to resort to law and not to provide the opportunity for “malicious” attempts “to sow discord and ignite sectarian strife.
“The prestigious Muslim body said a delegation from the Family House, a group of Muslim and Christian leaders that promotes peaceful coexistence, was sent to the village to help settle the matter.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 90 million, have long complained of discrimination and sectarian attacks in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country.
In May, Muslim villagers set ablaze seven Christian homes and assaulted a Christian man’s elderly mother, parading her naked in public. The assault in in Minya’s El-Karm village was sparked by rumours that the man was having an illicit relationship with a Muslim woman.