Egyptian governor orders the destruction of a newly renovated Coptic church in a small village in EGYPT.

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Washington DC (12/19/2002)--U.S. Copts Association received information and evidence that the Egyptian governor of Assuit, Ahmad Hamam Atyah, has ordered the destruction of the second floor of a newly renovated Coptic church, which will certainly result in destroying the whole church. The church, which is over 100 years old, was renovated after its congregation spent 6 years seeking and received a permit for the renovation from President Mubarak.

U.S. Copts Assocication

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Egyptian governor orders the destruction of a newly renovated Coptic church in a small village in EGYPT.

Press Release…          Contact: Sherif Adeeb

Immediate Release         Phone: 202-737-3660 or visit http://www.copts.com

Washington DC (12/19/2002)--U.S. Copts Association received information and evidence that the Egyptian governor of Assuit, Ahmad Hamam Atyah, has ordered the destruction of the second floor of a newly renovated Coptic church, which will certainly result in destroying the whole church. The church, which is over 100 years old, was renovated after its congregation spent 6 years seeking and received a permit for the renovation from President Mubarak.

Members of the church congregation contacted the U.S. Copts Association with a copy of an executive order number 926 for year 2002 issued on 11/03/2002 and singed by Mr. Hany Ibrahim Mohamed, the county executive of Assuit. The order stated that the second floor and the stairway leading to the second floor of St. Tadrows Al-Showtby and Abou-Sefeen Coptic church located in Shotob, must destroyed as soon as possible. The church is located at the village of Shotob, about 5 miles south of the city of Assuit. The church is served by Fr. Dawood Botros and is under the supervision of H.G. Bishop Mikael Bishop of the Diocese of Assuit.

The congregation had obtained a permit to renovate the ailing, 100 years old, church, which was original one level building. The church is surrounded by two and three levels homes owned by Muslims who made a habit of dumping their garbage on the roof of the church. The congregation wanted to eliminate this form of harassment by upping the roof of the church by one level during the renovation process. As soon as they started the process of building the second floor and a stairway to that floor, the governor of Assuit ordered the work stopped and called the church priest to a meeting in his office. The governor expressed his concern that the existing church was only one level and now is being renovated as a two level church. Fr. Dawodd Botros, the church priest explained to the governor that the second floor is not designed for any use and lacks any cement columns in the center to support any activities and is designed only for protection from the neighbors. The governor sent a city engineer to verify that the second floor can not be used for any other purpose. The engineer confirmed, what the priest had already told the governor, that the second floor can not be used in any other form, except to up the roof of the church by one level. In spite of the community’s assurance and the city’s leading engineer expert opinion, the governor insisted on his view that the second floor must be demolished as well as the staircase leading to it. The governor ordered the county executive to destroy the church while still meeting with Fr. Dawood Botors in his office. The governor also placed armed guards outside the church who are now harassing the church parishioners

This is not the first time President Mubarak has issued a permission to build or renovate a church only to be destroyed by local government officials. The Egyptian government has never held any of its governors accountable for harassing or discriminating the Christians minority in Egypt. “It seems that there is an unspoken deal between higher government officials and the local officials when it comes to church construction in Egypt. Even though President Mubarak has removed all restriction on renovating churches, governors appointed by the president still destroy and dismantle churches as they wish” said Michael Meunier, President of U.S. Copts Association. “ It is hard to imagine a governor of a state with at least 5 million residents has time to personally investigate the renovation process of a small church in a remote village to see if it is being renovate one level or two levels” continued Mr. Meunier.

“It is important to note that in all prior incidents when local officials destroyed churches, none of them have been punished or held accountable and the Coptic community had to sustain the cost of rebuilding. We call on President Mubarak to open an investigation in this matter and to stop this hideous act of Islamic extremisms. It is about time that Egypt rids itself of Islamic fanatic leaders who are ruling the country. If Egypt wants to be an effective partner in the war on terrorism, it can start at home by prosecuting terrorist members of its government like Governor Ahmad Hamam Atyah who is now terrorizing this small Christian community in Shotob, Assuit.”

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U.S. Copts Association was founded in 1996 and is based in Washington DC to advocate for democracy, religious freedom and human rights in Egypt. The Association represents over 700,000 American Copts (American from Egyptian Christian heritage).

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Michael Meunier