The prosecution of al-Fashn in Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo, are questioning nine Muslims and eleven Copts in relation to the attack that took place Saturday, 14 April, against the church of the Holy Virgin and Pope Kyrillos VI in the village of Meimin in al-Fashn. According to lawyer Essam Reda who represents the Coptic defendants, they have been charged with mobbing, fighting, and possession of unlicensed arms.
The attack took place at 7pm Saturday evening, when a group of young Muslim villagers converged on the church and started pelting it with stones, breaking its doors and windows. The police quickly arrived and brought the matter under control; 20 Muslims and 12 Copts were then caught pending investigation.
The church has been used for worship for some 10 years now, and is among the unlicensed churches which, according to the 2016 Law for Building Churches, have filed applications for legalisation of status. For long decades and till the 2016 law was passed, Copts had found it next to impossible to obtain licence to build a church. Owing to the ever-increasing needs of the growing congregation, they resorted to worshipping in buildings not licensed for worship. The new law made provision for licensing existing unlicensed churches, provided their buildings are structurally sound, as proved by a committee from the building authority.
No specific reason was given for the Meimin attack, but many of the Coptic villagers say that the building authority committee had recently visited the church in preparation for legalising its status, and the attack was waged in retaliation.