Coptic Head Orders No Prayer in Disputed Church
By Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Nov. 26 2008 05:40 PM EST
The Coptic Pope Shenuda III barred Egyptian Christians from praying
in a church building in Cairo Tuesday after sectarian violence broke
out this past weekend over the building's use as a Christian prayer hall.
At least eight men were arrested on Sunday night when Muslims clashed
with Coptic Christians in the neighborhood of Ein Shams to protest
the use of the property for prayer, according to state news agency MENA.
Muslims reportedly threw stones and burned two cars during the riot.
In response to the clash, Pope Shenuda III ordered Copts to cease
praying in the church-owned building that was previously an unused factory.
Following the clash, Copts complained about the unfair law that
requires them to be granted presidential permission before building a
church or expanding an existing church. The authorization is
difficult to near impossible to get and many Christians feel the law
exists only to oppress the Christian minority community in a country
where 90 percent or more of the population is Muslim.
Relations between Egyptian Muslims and the Christian minority were in
the past peaceful, but have recently grown strained. Conversions to
Christianity and a growing tendency to work and live among members of
one's religion have escalated tension between the two groups.
There are an estimated 10 million Copts in Egypt, or the equivalent
of about 10 percent of the population. The Coptic population, or the
Orthodox Christians of Egypt, is the largest group of Christians in
the Middle East.