Relaymedia

Eqypt Christian-Muslims Clash in Church Building Dispute

Hundreds of Egyptian Coptic Christians and Muslims fought in a church-building dispute that began after Muslim prayers south of Cairo, leaving 10 people injured.
( [email protected] ) May 11, 2007 09:32 PM EDT

Hundreds of Egyptian Coptic Christians and Muslims fought in a church-building dispute that began after Muslim prayers south of Cairo, leaving 10 people injured and several Christian-owned properties damaged.

The two sides clashed in the village of Belma, about 40 miles (60km) from the Egyptian capital. Police arrested 17 people from both faiths to stop the clashes. Security forces said rumors that the Christians did not have permission to build a church in the area triggered a violent response from Muslims after Friday prayers.

About 300 Muslims and 200 Christians participated in the clash. Four Christian shops that were selling wood and construction materials were reportedly set on fire before police intervened.

Egypt's Christians comprise up to 10 percent of the nation's 75 million people. Though violent clashes between both faiths are few, restrictions on building churches remains a grievance for Egyptian Christians.

In the worst Christian-Muslim violence to date, 20 Christians were killed in the southern village of Koseh in 1999, while 22 people were injured and many shops were destroyed.

Last year in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, a 45-year-old Muslim man stabbed a Coptic Christian man to death and wounded five others, beginning three days of sectarian violence that left one Muslim dead. Egyptian authorities later described the attacker as being mentally unstable much to ire of Coptic Christian who accused officials of trying to protect the Muslim man.