Residents of Tahna El-Gabal village in Minya participated in the funeral of a young man killed in yet another sectarian strife incident in the early hours of Monday morning.
On Sunday evening, families of two priests from Minya were assaulted with knives by an angry mob, leaving one dead and three injured, according to a statement from Archbishop Makarios of Minya.
A fight between children from Muslim and Coptic families escalated, leading to a fight between the parents of two Coptic families and one Muslim family. A group of angry Muslims assaulted men from the Coptic families.
A rumor of the building of a new church in the village resurfaced among Muslim residents, leading to tension that eventually led to the bloody scenes later, according to Ishak Ibrahim, a religious freedoms researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
Makarios paid a visit to those injured in the clashes, and inquired about the absence of a governmental follow up to the incident.
“Just a reminder, Mr. President, Coptics are Egyptians. Minya is an Egyptian governorate,” he tweeted after the visit.
Responding to the incident, Al-Azhar issued a statement asserting that the reason behind the incident was the children’s fight.
“Al-Azhar followed the media reports regarding a fight between Muslims and Christians because of children in Minya’s Tahna El-Gabal village. Al-Azhar asserts that the Egyptians are united, and both sides of the fight should adjudicate common sense away from calls aiming to create sectarian strife,” the statement read.
Al-Azhar also declared that a delegation from the House of the Egyptian Family was sent to Tahna Al Gabal. The House of the Egyptian Family was established by Al-Azhar and different churches in Egypt for the sake of facing any sectarian strife, mainly through customary reconciliation sessions.
In response to the incident, secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church Bishop Raphael blamed local officials of Tahna El Gabel for the incident and requested for a prompt reshuffle via Twitter.
“Shouldn’t these incidents should be enough to replace those failure officials?” he tweeted.
Raphael referred to several incidents that caused recent tension in Minya. In May, Soaad Thabet, a 70-year-old Coptic woman, was forced out of her home by an angry mob and was dragged into the street, beaten, and stripped, the church claimed.
The reason behind her assault was a rumour about an alleged affair between Thabet’s son and a Muslim woman, sparking tensions. The son left the village after receiving several threats. Afterwards, dozens had looted and torched at least seven homes belonging to Coptic families in the village of El-Karam, according to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Last week, a court in Minya ordered the release of eight defendants held against the backdrop of a sectarian strife that occurred in the governorate in May. The group is the last to be released out of a total of 16 defendants, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.