(AINA) -- On the morning of May 19 two Coptic priests went to St. Mary and St. Abraham Church in Ain Shams and opened it together with some of the Coptic residents, but later in the day thousands of Muslims surrounded the church to protest its opening, hurled stones at the church building and the Copts, who responded by throwing stones. The army and the police stood there watching and did not intervene (video).
Unable to secure the church, the army and police closed it and arranged for a "reconciliation" meeting between the Coptic priest and the Salafi sheikhs. They also arrested eight Copts, one of them 13-years old, and three Muslims. They were all charged with rioting, violence and causing injury to citizens. Three Copts were also charged with having cartridges but no guns and one 15-year-old boy with possessing two knives. The 3 Muslims were charged with throwing stones at the army.
Father Filopateer Gameel, one of the organizers of the Maspero sit-in, said that during a meeting with the Minister of Interior he was told he cannot choose the churches to be reopened because it was all "planned with the Salafis and the security authorities so that when we go, there will be no problems." He confirmed the minister had himself suggested the names of the three churches to be reopened.
The "reconciliation" session was held in a tent by the Islamist imam Kerdassi, the main opponent of the reopening of the church, who also recently built a mosque facing the church. Next to the tent was another one hosting Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi sheikhs, among them the renowned Salafi sheikh Hassan and over 3000 guests all chanting "Islamic, Islamic."
The session lasted for 5-hour, and was attended by sheikhs, imams, priests, lawyers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in which the Muslims insisted the church was a factory and the Christians explained that it was a church, although it has no dome or bell, and has been used as a place for worship and has a consecrated alter.
The Coptic diocese bought the building, which used to be a clothes factory, in 2004 and used it for worship until November 22, 2008, when it was closed by State Security after nearly 3000 Muslims surrounded the church, pelting it with stones and terrorizing thousands of parishioners inside.
Excerpted. More here: Muslims Surround Church in Egypt, Prevent Its Reopening