Amnesty demands Egypt release nine Christians detained for plans to rebuild church

Amnesty demands Egypt release nine Christians detained for plans to rebuild church
The Egyptians were from Ezbet Farag Allah village in el-Minya governorate – a small Christian village. 
2 min read
30 March, 2022
Egyptian authorities arrest nine Coptic Christians demonstrating against authorities refusal to rebuilt their church [Getty-file photo]

Amnesty International has urged Egypt to release nine Coptic Christians who were arrested for protesting against authorities' refusal to rebuild a damaged church.

The protesters were arrested on 30 January by Egyptian security forces and are residents of Ezbet Farag Allah village in el-Minya governorate, a small Christian village. 

They had appeared in a YouTube video a week before their arrest, protesting against the authorities' refusal to rebuild their church.

The Church of St. Joseph and Abu Sefein in el-Minya burned down in 2016 in a fire that was "never properly investigated", according to a lawyer mentioned in Amnesty International's report.

The villagers had since been forced to travel to neighbouring villages to practice their faith, and eventually submitted a request to rebuild their church in July 2021.

The authorities reportedly never responded to the request, which led to residents peacefully protest on 22 January earlier this year. Nine were arrested a week later, in a country where any sign of dissent are dealt with harshly by authorities.

"They were interrogated while blindfolded and handcuffed, with no lawyers present, while their families were denied information about their fate and whereabouts. These conditions are akin to enforced disappearances," read the report.

The human rights organisation has condemned Egypt's discrimination of the country's Christians, saying they are frequently the target of sectarian violence and often forced to accept out-of-court settlements.

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"Coptic Christians in Egypt should be afforded the right to collectively practice their religion," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Coptic Christians are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and makeup around 10 percent of Egypt's population. 

The Egyptian authorities have reportedly made it more difficult and complicated for Christians to build or repair their churches.

Local authorities are able to deny permits for construction or the right of people to appeal their cases.

They have reportedly closed down at least 25 churches since 2016 according to the independent Egyptian human rights group Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), claiming they were “unregistered” or in the guise of avoiding sectarian tension.

Egypt's abysmal human rights record against different groups, such as Christians, liberals, activists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and journalists has been well documented over the past few years.

The country’s jails are reportedly filled with opponents and critics of the current regime.