St George’s Church in the village of Sarsena, in the Tamiya district of Fayoum provincein Egypt was set ablaze by local Muslims who later attacked the building for a second time while a “reconciliation” meeting was taking place.
It was first attacked on Friday evening (15 February). Hundreds of Muslims, who had been incited by Salafists, congregated outside the church and hurled bricks at the building. They then climbed to the church dome, started demolishing it and set the place of worship on fire. Extensive damage was caused.
The mob threw stones at the minister, who was rescued by a Muslim family. He and a number of other Christians suffered slight injuries.
The Salafists claimed that St George’s was “an unlawful neighbor to the Muslims who live adjacent to it and must therefore be moved”. They also demanded that the church not use a small plot of land it owns as a kindergarten.
A Muslim family who live in a house next to the church had complained about the sound coming from the building during services. They had made a hole in the wall three months ago to monitor St George’s activities.
Matters came to a head on Friday; police attempts to reconcile the Muslims and the church’s pastor failed, and the assault on the church began. The police did not intervene.
A so-called “reconciliation” meeting was held on Saturday evening. These are arranged by the authorities following a dispute and often result in Christians being further humiliated and losing more rights.
While the meeting was taking place, Muslims attacked St George’s again. They threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the building while shouting, “We do not want the church.”
At the reconciliation meeting, St George’s representatives were forced to agree to a number of restrictive and costly conditions, including: the building be soundproofed at the church’s expense; the building not be restored to its original height before the attack; the church not use the area outside the building to expand or as a kindergarten, only as a store room.
No mention was made of St George’s receiving any financial compensation for the damage to its building. No one has been arrested for the attacks on the church.
On Sunday evening, hundreds of Christians marched to the High Court building in Cairo, calling for justice over the torching of St George’s and attacks on other churches since the revolution.