Sunday, January 3, 2010

Egyptian Christians Refuse to Open Stores After Muslim Riot

Egyptian Christian shop owners in the eastern town of Farshoot where a Muslim riot recently occurred refused to reopen their stores until the government compensated them for damages.

Copts – the Christian community in Egypt – said they will not be coerced into overlooking the mass riot that left reportedly 65 Christian shops damaged, as reported by Assyrian International News Agency on Sunday. Instead, they are uniting to make authorities recognize what happened and punish perpetrators.

Authorities, however, reportedly are putting pressure on the Coptic Church in Nag Hammadi, which is under the same governorate as Farshoot, to tell the victims to accept extrajudicial reconciliation and reopen their businesses without compensation. Police in Farshoot are also reportedly refusing to issue police reports to victims, forcing them to travel 37 miles away to make a report with the Attorney General in Qena, the capital of the governorate. Authorities have also not carried out an estimated loss investigation despite requests the church has made for a week.

“There will be no reconciliation before full financial compensation has been paid to the Coptic victims, and the criminals are brought to justice, so that safety and security can be restored to the district,” said Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hammadi Diocese, according to AINA.

Kirollos told activist Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association that the victims have no money to clean up, restock items and reopen their stores.

Reports estimate that 10 pharmacies and 55 shops and businesses in Farshoot and several nearby villages were vandalized, torched or damaged during the few days of riots which began on Nov. 21. In Farshoot alone, about 80 percent of Coptic businesses were destroyed, which translates to about over $1 million in damages.

The riot, which drew hundreds of angry Muslims, was due to a rumor that a Coptic young man kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Muslim girl.

However, an investigating officer told a Farshoot pastor that the girl said she was only sure that her attacker wore a black jacket and nothing else.

Moreover, the girl’s family had agreed with the church to wait for a police investigation and did not incite or join in with the mob that burned and looted Coptic-owned properties.

Christian business owners in Farshoot whose shops were undamaged have closed their businesses in solidarity with fellow Coptic business owners whose stores were damaged.

Bishop Kirollos has sent letters about the violence in Farshoot to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Egypt’s People’s Assembly and the Shura Council asking for quick financial compensation for the Coptic victims.

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