Egypt's Coptic Church praises 'state efforts' to contain sectarian strife in Luxor

Mahmoud Aziz , Thursday 30 Mar 2017

File photo of an Egyptian Orthodox Church. (Photo:Reuters)

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement on Wednesday evening expressing its appreciation for the state's efforts in containing a recent outbreak of sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Luxor.

Over the past week, the village of Mehidat has been the scene of clashes between security forces and residents after a Muslim man claimed he was in a "relationship" with a Christian woman who had converted to Islam.

Security forces clashed with residents who attempted to storm the houses of Copts in search of the girl, according to news reports. Several injuries and arrests were reported as a result of the clashes.

The Muslim man at the centre of events allegedly gathered a number of Muslim extremists in the village in an attempt to storm the houses, said church spokesman Pastor Bolis Halim in the statement.

Halim praised the efforts of the country's security bodies and several members of parliament in calming the situation.

He also said that most of the Muslim community in the village had cooperated to contain the potential for sectarian strife.

Christians are estimated to make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population. Most of the Christian community resides in the governorates of Upper Egypt.

Incidents of sectarian strife occur occasionally in Egypt, particularly in Upper Egypt, often driven by rumors of relationships between Christian women and Muslim men or vice versa.

In 2011, one of the most violent incidents took place in the Imbaba district of Giza Governorate, with 15 people killed after rumors of a Christian girl being converted to Islam and kidnapped by members of the district's church.

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