Christian girl recalls horror when Islamist radicals attacked and burned their home in Egypt

Imagine the horror that gripped members of a Coptic Christian family in Egypt when they saw a mob of angry Muslim radicals attacking and burning their home in the middle of the night.

The sight was even more terrifying to a child who described what happened to their family's home, The Financial Times reported.

"I was terrified. I saw men pour petrol on bundles of wood and throw them on our roof. When it began to fall on us, my father dragged us out," 11-year-old Susana Khalaf said in the offices of her family's lawyer in Minya, capital of the Egyptian province where their village of Kom El Louf is located.

Ibrahim Khalaf, the girl's father, said the Muslim mob attacked their home based on a rumour that they were converting their house into a church when they started replacing its wooden roof with concrete.

The attack on the Khalaf family last June was part of the rising sectarian violence against Egypt's Coptic Christians.

Just last month, five Christian houses were burnt in another village after rumours spread that residents were building a church.

Muslims often consider the building of a church in their area as an insult.

The fear of a Christian church rising near their community is not the only thing that keeps the Muslim extremists wary of their Christian neighbours.

In May, an elderly Christian woman was stripped by a crowd and paraded down the street based on a rumour that her son was having an affair with a Muslim woman.

Ibrahim Khalaf is demanding full justice for his destroyed house despite pressure for him to withdraw his police complaints.

Nineteen people have been arrested over the attack.

Khalaf said he has been warned that if he doesn't withdraw his complaints "there will be blood."

Those who issued the warning even threatened his daughters, saying they "can be kidnapped" and that "the security services won't stay in the village forever to protect you."

Coptic Christians say they are being pressured by local security authorities and village leaders into dropping legal complaints against the Muslims who attacked and burned their homes.

Instead of pursuing cases against Muslim assailants, Christian residents have been advised to file their complaints at reconciliation councils in the villages, which give fines rather than prison sentences, according to human rights groups. This is tantamount to impunity and therefore encourages further violence, the right groups say.

"[This method] only serves to perpetuate tensions and creates a climate in which any dispute between citizens is liable to escalate into sectarian violence and collective punishment," the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a statement.