Violence against Egyptian Christians erupted yesterday in the village of Zakaria, located in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya.
According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the violence began after a Muslim family accused Kirollos Sabet, 22, of having an inappropriate relationship with a Muslim woman, also 22.
Zakaria has a population of 4,000, divided evenly between Christians and Muslims.
AINA said a statement by Anba Makarios, Bishop of Minya, read that Muslim villagers gathered where Sabet's family lives. They broke into their furniture and household appliances stores, stole the contents and then destroyed the stores. They also looted an adjacent electrical appliances warehouse and a family-owned taxi.
Security forces arrived in the village to restore order. However, AINA reported, loudspeakers were inciting chaos, and hard-line Muslims prowled the streets of the village throwing stones at Coptic homes and calling for revenge.
Under the oversight of Major General Osama Metwally, director of Minya security, a customary "reconciliation" meeting was held with the heads of Muslim and Christian families in the region, a number of mayors and the families of the accused man and woman. No church representative was present.
AINA said the result of the meeting was that Sabet was to pay the amount of 300,000 Egyptian pounds and the Muslim woman 150,000 pounds, because she willingly met the man. But because the woman is poor and unable to pay, her fine was added to Sabet's.
When Sabet and his family protested this decision, the arbitrators decided to expel him and his five brothers from the village.
The Bishop warns that Muslim villagers are now prowling the village chanting against the Copts, demanding the burning of their churches, homes and stores.
AINA reported he said, "A state of extreme tension prevails in the Zakaria village and is spreading to neighboring villages, which could result in a new wave of violence against the Copts."