Police and Christians clash over church building, one dead

Police and Christians clash over church building, one dead

(24 Nov 2010)
1. Police carrying injured officer
2. Wide of church surrounded by police cordon
3. Mid of police cordon
4. Close-up of half built church
5. Wide of street showing debris from clashes
6. Close-up of broken stones on street
7. Wide of trees
8. Tilt down from nearby church of Mar Mena, protesters gathering
9. Various of protesters
10. Close-up of church name
11. SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) Mokhles (no other name given), Christian protester:
“They don’t want us to build a church for us to pray, they want us to be homeless. We can not accept that, they detained more than fifty and one has been killed in the clashes.”
12. Protesters sitting on side of street
13. SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) Bassem (no other name given), Christian protester:
“They don’t want us to live in our own country. What do they want us to do? They have invaded our holy places and we even can not build our own churches. Where do they want us to pray? In the street?”
14. Wide of street near the church
Hundreds of Christians smashed cars and windows and tried to assault a municipal building in Cairo on Wednesday after police violently stopped the construction of a church that left one person dead and underscored Egypt’s sectarian tensions.
Police clashed with Christians first at the church construction site in the early hours of the morning and then several hours later when a mob of hundreds assaulted the local governor’s office.
The slain Christian was shot in the thigh and died after arriving at a nearby hospital, according to Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency.
Thirty people were injured in the clashes and 93 were arrested.
Two priests were summoned by the general prosecutor for interrogation.
Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 (m) million.
They complain frequently of discrimination, though they generally live in peace with the Muslim majority with only occasional flare-ups of tension and violence, especially over limits on church building.
The government said construction had been ordered halted in this case because the building was not licensed to become a house of worship.
“They had previously been ordered to cease construction due to violations of building safety code standards, and because they were attempting to illegally transform the building into a church for the conduct of religious services,” it said in a statement.
A Coptic priest overseeing the construction in the Omraniya neighbourhood of Giza, Cairo’s twin city, said that 5-thousand security forces cordoned off the site in the early morning while workers were working on the roof.
The government said protesters were blocking a major highway and had to be cleared.
A few hours later, some 700 Christians, many bearing makeshift crosses, descended on the headquarters of the Giza governor where they were met by riot police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Governor General Sayyed Abdel Aziz told the official news agency that rioters had tried and failed to storm the building.
After the demonstrations had been dispersed, 15 police trucks still surrounded the area around the church and there was heavy security in the neighbourhood.
The Coptic community says authorities in Egypt are reluctant to approve permits to build churches, which they say they need to accommodate growing numbers of worshippers.
One way to evade the rules is to obtain permits for Christian service centres, which they then turn to churches.
Human rights groups say attacks on Copts are on the rise, underscoring the government’s failure to address chronic sectarian strains in a society where it’s claimed religious radicalism is gaining ground.

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