First mass in Soul village church since mob torching

Ekram Ibrahim , Wednesday 13 Apr 2011

Copts attend their first Mass in Two Martyrs’ Church in Soul village, which was burned in a sectarian attack last month

Atfeeh Church

Copts attended today the first Mass at 7:30am in Two Martyrs Church, which was torched on 4 March after being attacked by a Muslim mob.

The village church in Soul, Helwan in south Cairo was attacked by a Muslim mob, allegedly in the wake of rumours of a love affair between a young Muslim woman and a Coptic man last month.

Coptic youth hung the cross at the top of the church last night amidst a joyous crowd.

The Two Martyrs church was rebuilt under the supervision of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) starting 13 March and was finished in exactly one month, as promised.

The incident triggered large-scale Coptic protests, with tens of thousands gathering for several days before the state TV building in the centre of Cairo. Coptic feelings were further inflamed by an initial decision of the Governor of Helwan to have the church rebuilt away from its original site, on the outskirts of the village. The Supreme Military Council later intervened and decided that the armed forces would rebuild the church at the original site.

Roughly 700 Coptic residents of Soul village were in high spirits as the church was completed just in time for Easter ceremonies. “I am really very happy to be able to pray again in my church. We thank the army so much,” said Adel Medhat, af Soul village resident.

Many Coptic activists also expressed delight with the timely results. “I’m so glad that Soul church was rebuilt and that its people are finally praying in it,” said Hani Ramsis, rights lawyer and one of the leaders of the Maspero Youth Union.  Many residents showed gratitude to the army for their significant efforts.

Rebuilding the church isn’t enough

SCAF has written the issue off through an unofficial extralegal truce: the villagers were gathered by a Muslim Salafist Sheikh who asked for clemency from both Copts and Muslims and for all to permit the church to be rebuilt.

A large number of Copts remain unsatisfied, and resent the fact that the legal, criminal process was not carried out and are insisting that those involved in the church burning be tried.

“The SCAF didn’t treat the issue justly: the law should have been enforced,” said Dina Samir, a freelance writer.

Furthermore, some Copts are organising a protest next Friday to ask for, among other things, the prosecution of the culprits in the Two Martyrs Church burning and the release of 17 Copts arrested in the course of protests triggered by the attack. “The rebuilding of the church was never enough for me, so am joining the Friday protests,” asserts Nabil Gobrial, lawyer.


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