By BosNewsLife News Center
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Funeral preparations were underway Friday, January 20, where at least one Christian and a dozen others were injured when Muslim militants set fire to a Christian community center in Upper Egypt, church sources and news reports said. (Photo: Coptic Christians demand the government stops persecution, including killings and kidnappings.)
The killed man, identified as Coptic Christian Kamaal Shaker, died of injuries he received when a group of Muslims attacked an Orthodox-owned building in the town of el-Udaysaat, near the city of Luxor, Egyptian media reported.
About 12 members of both communities were also injured in the subsequent clashes, as well as two policemen, news reports said. Egyptian police tried to intervene and eventually detained 10 young men and the owners of the house, journalists said.
Local Christians claimed the troubles began when a group of Muslims attempted to stop them from converting a house into a church. Muslims allegedly also complained about an all-night prayer service held there on the eve of Epiphany, celebrated 12 days after the Eastern Orthodox January 7 Christmas.
All those injured, including two security guards, were reportedly taken to Luxor International Hospital for treatment. One of them, Ahmad Hosni, was said to have been admitted to the intensive care unit for suffocation-related injuries. Christian news agency Compass Direct quoted local sources as saying that the center had been banned from holding religious services in 1971, when authorities told the congregation to apply for registration.
Recently the community apparently began to remodel the building and had planned to inaugurate it to use it for conducting prayer services. Analysts say curbs on building churches have been among the grievances among Coptic Christians, although these restrictions were officially eased recently by presidential decree.
They have also expressed concerns over reports of kidnappings of Coptic girls by Muslim militants and violence against other members of the community, BosNewsLife monitored.
Last year in October Christians stayed at home and kept their shops closed in Egypt's Mediterranean city of Alexandria, after three people were killed when thousands of angry Muslims tried to storm a Coptic church. That violence outside St. George's Coptic Church in Alexandria was sparked by a demonstration against a play once performed there, which Muslims said was insulting to Islam.
In December, Muslims in a village north of Cairo reportedly vandalized Christian homes after a Muslim man died of heart failure upon witnessing a fight between his son and a Christian. Two Christian families involved in the initial fight were expected to leave the village and pay a fine of 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($87,070).
Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III planned to send seven bishops to el-Udaysaat for Shaker's funeral service this weekend, media said. The funeral was expected to held at a venue unlicensed as a church, in apparent protest against what critics see as Egypt's "restrictive law" governing the building and basic upkeep of non-Muslim places of worship.
The Coptic Christian community is estimated to comprise roughly 10% percent of Egypt's predominantly Muslim population of about 70-million. (With reports from Egypt and BosNewsLife Research).
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