Minya authorities allegedly block Christians from holding mass

Authorities in Ezbat al-Forn in Abu Qurqas city, Minya governorate, kept Coptic Christians from holding mass and gathering for their daily prayers because their church did not have a license to do so, believers claim.

(REUTERS / Amina Ismail)People walk on a street in Egypt's Southern governorate of Minya, Egypt April 12, 2017.

Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, a Coptic worshipper said around 300 Christians gather regularly for prayers at the church. When authorities blocked them from entering the house of worship, they took their service to the streets instead, Egypt Independent detailed.

Brigadier Mohamed Salah, the head of Abu Qurqas city council, said Ezbat al-Forn has no licensed church, so Coptic Christians bring a priest and hold their services in homes. On Sunday, he said a group of Muslims tried to stop their prayer rituals because they did not have permission to conduct prayers. The situation escalated to a point where security services had to intervene to prevent Muslims and Christians from clashing, but no one was arrested.

Christians in Egypt complain that they are being treated unfairly and that it is easier for Muslims to build a mosque than for them to build a church.

In May, 30 people were killed and at least 21 others were injured when armed militants attacked buses of Coptic Christians who were on their way to a monastery in Minya. Earlier this month, Egypt's interior ministry announced that a man suspected to be one of the gunmen was killed in a police shootout, Ahram Online reported.

The suspect who was shot down was reportedly a member of a terrorist cell responsible for two church attacks in Cairo in December, the Palm Sunday church attacks in Tanta and Alexandria, and an attack on a checkpoint in Wadi Gadid earlier this year. The ministry's statement said the shootout happened in Qena governorate in Upper Egypt.

The northern part of Sinai is plagued by Islamist militant groups that the government is trying to subdue. However, these jihadists have taken their terror attacks beyond that boundary and have also targeted security forces in the capital and other places in Egypt.