EIPR holds the security authorities responsible for the sectarian attacks in the villages of "Al-Fawakhir" and "Al-Kom Al-Ahmar" in Minya

Press Release

29 April 2024

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) condemns the authorities' handling of the sectarian attacks that took place in the two villages of Al-Fawakhir and Al-Kom Al-Ahmar in Minya Governorate, south of Cairo, where Christians tried to exercise their right to perform religious rituals. It stresses that security agencies failed to intervene to prevent the attacks before they occurred, despite their prior knowledge of growing sectarian tensions and incitement. It said the authorities arrested a number of citizens during the incidents.

EIPR stresses that these attacks are not "individual incidents", exceptional or accidental, noting that since September, three incidents have been related to the construction of churches in villages in Minya.

Instead of intervening to protect citizens' right to practice religious rites and redress the harm caused to them, state institutions prevented the construction of churches. EIPR had previously warned of the grave repercussions of this approach following the events that took place in the villages of Al-Khayari, Manshaet Zafarana, and Al-Uzeib.

EIPR stresses that state institutions should not be subject to the blackmail of aggressors, as it is not their responsibility to respect the feelings of those who may be provoked by the presence of Christian places of worship. The state is rather required to protect freedom of belief and the right of all citizens to practice religious rites.

EIPR warns against the use of customary reconciliation sessions to address these issues at the expense of justice mechanisms. Customary reconciliation is a method that contains a message of tacit approval of the attacks, which encourages their recurrence and causes psychological effects, the most important of which is the Christians' feeling that they don’t have equal rights as their fellow Muslims.

The authorities should deal transparently with sectarian tensions and attacks and announce the facts to the public. The statements of local, religious and political leaders about respect for others, as well as the inclusion of freedom of belief in the programs of some ministries or in the national strategy for human rights, without measures on the ground, have become useless in preventing these tensions and will not improve the status of religious freedoms. The first step towards the solution is for the state institutions to fulfil their constitutional and legal roles, foremost of which is the protection of citizens from violence and abuse, as well as the protection of their property and their right to practice religious rites, whether individually or collectively, in a house, a religious building or a church.

To ensure justice and prevent the recurrence of such sectarian attacks, the authorities should arrest those who incited or participated in them and refer them to competent investigation bodies to determine their criminal responsibility. The authorities should also compensate the victims in a manner commensurate with the damage and losses they sustained. Moreover, the authorities should guarantee the right of citizens to practice their religious rites and build the churches they need, especially since these events coincide with religious occasions.

EIPR reiterates its call for a review of the church construction law, which did not address the legal and procedural difficulties faced when applying for the construction of new churches. The law should remove all conditions that discriminate or restrict Christians' right to practice their rites in accordance with the Constitution.

Attacks on Christians in Al-Fawakhir village


Sectarian attacks erupted in the village of Al-Fawakhir in Minya on 23 April 2024 when a rumour had it that Christians had turned a house into a church. A few hundred Muslim residents staged a march where they chanted hostile slogans and fired shots in the air, then hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at the homes of Christians in the village, which led to the burning of three houses. Three other houses were looted. During the attacks, Copts were prevented from leaving their homes by force of arms. The attackers also beat some women, causing minor injuries to three of them.

The village of Al-Fawakhir is located in western Minya. It is home to several thousand Muslims and about 40 Christian families, in addition to some Christian families living in the Nage’ Harbi - a small community near the village. There are no churches in the village or the neighbouring villages. commuting from the village to the nearest church takes about an hour by car. So, the Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese used to send a priest to the village irregularly to hold masses in one of the Copts’ houses. The diocese was keen to change the priest and the house so the residents would not think it was a church. The priest's visit to Christian families was known to the villagers.

According to Bishop Makarios, the bishop of Minya, an atmosphere of sectarian incitement, tensions and threats prevailed in the village four days before the attacks, and the way the security services handled the situation contributed to the tensions. On 15 April 2024, the security services summoned some of the village's Copts and interrogated them about the existence of a church or the start of building a church, but they denied it. Security forces were stationed in front of a house to guard it, which suggested to the villagers that the rumour was true. The events evolved, with incitement spreading on social media. At the dawn of Saturday, 20 April, Molotov cocktails were thrown at three Coptic houses, but the fire was contained. Other houses were attacked with Molotov cocktails but sustained no losses. On 22 April, a Coptic resident installed CCTVs in his house for fear of any attack, something which is common in the village. However, the security services asked him to remove the cameras. On the same day, the principal of the village's primary school mocked some Coptic girls, which prompted a number of their colleagues to harass and beat some of them. When the girls' families went to the school to protest the behaviour, the school principal banished them.

As tensions escalated, and some Muslims warned their Christian neighbours that there were plans to attack them, the Minya Diocese again appealed for the security services to intervene and protect citizens. The security services promised to take action. However, the events reached their peak at 10:30 pm local time on 23 April, when a number of villagers attacked homes of Copts and set fire to some of them. Footage of the fires circulated on social media as a boast of responding to "the attempt of building a church in the village".

This prompted Bishop Makarios to write on X, saying: "I am following with great concern the extremists' attack now on the homes of Copts in the village of Al-Fawakhir in Minya. A large number of houses were set on fire, and their residents were prevented from leaving. We informed the officials of the expected attack, and they promised us to take action. We are confident they will take swift action." 

Security forces arrived an hour after the events started, contained the fires, and arrested several instigators and attackers.

Al-Kom Al-Ahmar Events


Just three days after the events in Al-Fawakhir village, Al-Kom Al-Ahmar village in Minya also witnessed sectarian events. According to eyewitnesses, hundreds of residents of Al-Kom Al-Ahmar and neighbouring villages staged a march after the Friday prayers on 26 April, chanting anti-Christian slogans and protesting the construction of a licensed evangelical church. 

Protesters threw stones at Coptic homes in the village, shattering the doors and windows of some of them. They then went to the plot of land being prepared for the church, damaged 12 tons of cement and backfilled a drain, then moved towards the homes of Copts, broke the windows and doors of some of them, and damaged three cars.

EIPR obtained four videos from eyewitnesses documenting the attacks.

According to villagers, Christian residents bought a piece of land in the year 2000 to build an evangelical church to serve the village's residents and neighbouring villages that do not have evangelical churches. They built a wall around the land and began to build the church. Then, Muslim residents gathered and demolished the wall, claiming that no license was obtained to build a church. The land remained empty and owned by the Evangelical Church, which in 2023 began procedures to obtain an official license. The church obtained the license last October.

When the land was prepared for construction in January, about a hundred Muslim villagers gathered in front of the homes of two Christian families and said to them: "We came to speak friendly; no more churches will be built in the village, and the Orthodox Church is enough."

The village has more than 2,000 Christians. Some are Orthodox and have their own church that provides religious services, while others are Evangelical and do not have a church but have a pastor who provides religious services to them. They tried for many years to obtain a license to build a church until they received it last year.

Following this tension, the preparation of the land stopped, and security, local and religious leaders sought to ease the tension by trying to convince those who rejected the construction of the church, especially the Al-Jawazi tribe that controls the area where the church is planned to be built. On 22 April, the security authorities approved the construction of the church, and a police force was placed at the site. The land was prepared for laying the church’s foundation, and the drain was dug up. However, promises not to attack the church were broken, and the aforementioned attacks took place on Friday. An hour after the attacks, security forces came to the scene, got CCTV footage of the attacks, and arrested a number of villagers.

For more details on sectarian attacks that occurred due to the practice of religious rites and decisions to legalise churches, please see EIPR’s map of religious freedoms.