Amnesty Demands Egypt To Release Nine Christians Detained for Attempting to Rebuild Church

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the Egyptian government to immediately release nine Coptic Christians who were arbitrarily detained after peacefully protesting against the authorities’ refusal to rebuild a church that had burned down over five years ago.

Amnesty said in a statement that on 30 January 2022, Egyptian security forces detained nine demonstrators who were residents of Ezbet Farag Allah village in el-Minya governorate, a small Christian village, 

In a video published online a week earlier on 22 January, the protestors asked for the renovation of the church, which according to Amnesty, is the only place of worship in the village for Coptic Christians.

“The Egyptian authorities have for years ignored calls to rebuild the church, leaving around 800 Coptic Christians without a place to worship in their village,” the statement said.

“Now, in their shameful efforts to silence these calls, they are arbitrarily detaining villagers, criminalizing peaceful protests, and slapping ludicrous charges on those who dare to speak out,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Luther said that Coptic Christians in Egypt should be afforded the right to collectively practice their religion. “For too long, their religious freedom has been undermined by discriminatory laws and practices, which place undue restrictions on the construction and renovation of churches and grant unbridled power to governors and security forces to make decisions over church repairs,” Luther added.

The Church of St. Joseph and Abu Sefein in el-Minya burned down in 2016 in a fire that was “never properly investigated”, according to a lawyer mentioned in Amnesty International’s report.

The church was eventually demolished in July 2021, after which a formal request to rebuild it was submitted, it added.

According to Amnesty, the detained Christians were interrogated while blindfolded and handcuffed, with “no lawyers present,” while their families were denied information about their fate and whereabouts.

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