The Al Jazeera article below has more detail and recent developments in the incident, but neglects to note, as an Agence France-Presse story does, that the monks had a permit to build the wall. Still, residents insisted it was illegal (perhaps in the spirit of the Pact of Umar, permits notwithstanding), and violence ensued. “Egypt Copts protest against attacks,” June 1:
Calm has returned to Deir Abu Fana, a village 210km south of Egypt’s capital, Cairo, after the release of three monks abducted amid tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians.
Violence erupted on Saturday when local Muslims claimed the expansion of a Coptic monastery was being carried out illegally on state property.
In Mallawi, a nearby town, on Sunday Coptic Christian protesters chanted: “With our blood and soul, we will defend the cross.”
They appealed to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to intervene because “Coptic hearts are on fire”.
Father Bulous, a priest at the Mallawi church who managed to visit the three freed monks in hospital on Sunday, said: “They said they were tortured, tied up and beaten and humiliated.
“One monk was hit with the back of a rifle and had his leg broken.”
Deir Abu Fana, in the province of Minya, has a high proportion of Coptic Christians and contains several monasteries particularly sacred to the community.
A similar incident took place in Minya in October, resulting in 20 people receiving injuries.
Deir Abu Fana clash
A Muslim resident of Deir Abu Fana was killed during Saturday’s inter-communal clashes.
Two Coptic Christian workers at the monastery suffered bullet wounds and were admitted to hospital in a critical condition, while two monks suffered injuries.
Father Dumadius, who witnessed the attack, said that at least 60 men carrying weapons stormed the Abu Fana monastery on Saturday.
“They split into several groups. One group proceeded to destroy the wall. Others entered a chapel used by the monks and destroyed and burned property,” he said.
Muslim residents of the area claim the agricultural land on which the monastery’s wall is being built as theirs, and say it is damaging their crops.
The developments in Deir Abu Fana came against a backdrop of attacks against Christian jewellers over the past week that prompted one Coptic member of Egypt’s parliament to claim on Thursday that police were not adequately protecting the community.
Armed men stormed a jewelry shop in Cairo on Wednesday and killed the Coptic Christian owner and three of his assistants, but did not steal anything.
The suspected assailant was arrested on Sunday, but another Coptic-owned jewelry store was targeted the same day, this time in the port city of Alexandria.
No one was killed, but about $28,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.
Police claim the incidents are entirely criminal in nature and not sectarian.