Egyptian Churchgoers Attacked For Attempting To Fix Church Roof

The Church of the Virgin and Anba Samuel in Abis al-Thawra, a village on the rural outskirts of Alexandria, Egypt, was attacked by rioters on Dec. 24, 2022.

According to Raymond Ibrahim, the local populace rioted and hurled stones at the church, individual Coptic Christians and roof workers because they attempted to fix the dilapidated roof of the church.

The fixing of the church roof contradicts Islamic law, Sharia, which is enshrined in Article 2 of Egypt’s Constitution. Strict Sharia law, the Islamic concept of “dhimma,” mandates that no new churches can be built on territories conquered by Muslims and renovations cannot be made on existing churches.

Two years earlier, the crumbling roof of the Church of the Virgin and Anba Samuel in Abis al-Thawra, had compelled church leaders to appeal to authorities for a permit to “fix the roof and save the lives of worshippers.”

Raymond Ibrahim reports that on at least one occasion, portions of the roof, after heavy rains, collapsed in on and injured several congregants.

Since The Church of the Virgin and Anba Samuel is the only church in an area covering several villages and hamlets to serve some 600 Christian families and was already severely overcrowded, the Copts had also requested approval to enlarge the church.

The permission to enlarge the church was denied, but after two years of petitioning, the church was finally granted approval to fix the roof. However, this upset the local populace, which “rioted and hurled stones at the church, individual Copts, and the roof workers. They also set fire to a Christian farmhouse adjacent to the church.”

Police arrived and quelled the riots. They temporarily halted roof repairs, promising the Copts that the repairs could be resumed shortly.

However, on that same day, the local district governor inspected the site and decided that roof repairs must halt immediately and indefinitely.

The governor has threatened to demolish the church if further work continues.

Adel Guindy, author of “A Sword Over the Nile” and former president of Coptic Solidarity, commented about the situation, saying, “It appears that the “hidden-hand” that orchestrates these kinds of ugly incidents wanted to get out of the boring routine and add some excitement, befitting the season’s festivities and celebrations. In all cases, the message remains unchanged: Christian Copts need always to be humiliated as a reminder of their “dhimmi” status.