08/23/2017, 19.02
EGYPT
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Egyptian police prevent Copts from celebrating Mass in Al Forn

by Loula Lahham

Worshippers used a building as a temporary church to pray. On Sunday, police surrounded it, preventing people from entering because it did have an official permit. On the same day, in Alexandria, a Coptic woman was stabbed as she left a church.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Sunday morning, 20 August, security forces prevented Coptic worshippers and their pastor from celebrating Mass in a building in Al Forn, a small village in Minya governorate, 245 km south of Cairo.

The building had been dubbed ‘The Church of the Virgin’ after the village church, which had been shuttered in 2004 for unknown reasons.

The police rejected the use of the building as a place of worship for Christians because it lacked a building or usage permit for such a purpose.

A source in the Orthodox Coptic diocese, who asked for anonymity, provided some information about the incident.

The village of Al Forn (literally The Oven) has about 400 Copts but no functioning church. For several years, they used a building in the village, in the middle of the Christian area, as a temporary church.

Religious services were always celebrated respectfully, with the verbal consent of security officials, which is why they went on years. The Coptic bishop had assigned one of his priests, Father Boutros Aziz, to serve the congregation.

Everything appeared to be going smoothly with the authorities and local Muslims, including the few Muslim fundamentalists. Until last Sunday.

When the pastor arrived at the “church” at 6 am, he found it surrounded by police. The latter barred Fr Aziz and his parishioners from going inside because they did not have an official permit to worship.

As a result of this, the feast day of the Assumption was celebrated yesterday, 22 August, according to the Coptic calendar, in a neighbouring village, a few kilometres away, too far for many seniors, pregnant women and children, especially because of the intense heat in this part of Upper Egypt.

Now, for the daily rituals, Copts pray four times a day in the streets. This is happening without any problems, an excellent answer to those who speak of tensions between Christians and the Muslims in Al Forn.

Meanwhile, on the same day of the feast of the Assumption, a Christian woman was stabbed as she left a church in Alexandria (on the Mediterranean coast), and then taken to hospital. The attacker fled the scene of the crime and remains at large.

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