Muslims in the village of Sarsena, Tamiya district in Fayoum province set fire to the church of St George on Friday. They also threw rocks at the church, causing damage to its dome.
According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the cross on top of the dome was broken and the attackers demolished parts of the church's interior and defaced and destroyed its icons.
AINA said this was prompted by Salafists Muslims who instigated the villagers to attack the church because the church is "an unlawful neighbor to the Muslims who live adjacent to it and must therefore be moved".
AINA said they demanded the relocation of the church away from Muslim homes and are not allowing its priest, Pastor Domadios, to enter the church. All these events were witnessed by the security authorities who AINA said did nothing to stop the attack.
The church was built in the mid-1980s, and serves nearly 200 Coptic families. Three months ago the Muslims made a hole in the church to monitor the activities inside.
AINA said on Thursday, the Muslims said the church has to move and refused an offer from the church to buy the home of the Muslim neighbour. The Muslims also demanded the church not use a small plot of land it owns as a kindergarten.
The Muslim neighbour increased the size of the monitoring hole in the church to over one square meter.
AINA said the head of the district police came to the village and tried to reconcile the church's pastor and the Muslim parties. However, the Muslims did not agree to any of the proposals and left the meeting.
Shortly afterwards and in the presence of the police, hundreds of Muslims began congregating and hurled bricks at the church; the police made no effort to stop them.
AINA said the mob climbed to the church dome, and started demolishing it and setting it on fire. The dome collapsed into the burning church and caused a lot of damage. Muslims used bricks from the dome and the holy cross and hurled it at the altar inside the church, causing part of it to be demolished. All the icons of saints were destroyed.
According to AINA, Muslims tried to assault Father Domadios and threw stones at him, but he was saved by a Muslim family who brought him away from the village in their car.
"All this took place in the presence of the police chief," reported Coptic activist Nader Shoukry. Muslims continued throwing stones at the church, breaking the roof water tank, which fell inside the church and helped quench the fire.
AINA said security authorities later persuaded the Muslim perpetrators to stop their assault and leave the place after a considerable part of the church was destroyed. Some Copts and the priest were slightly injured by stones thrown at them.
According to Nader Shoukry, the Coptic inhabitants are staying indoors for fear of being assaulted by the Muslims. AINA said none of the alleged perpetrators has been arrested, and the situation is still volatile.
Source: ASSIST News Service