'Extremists' burn down church in Egypt

People walk around the burnt and destroyed Evangelical Church in Mallawi at Minya governorate, about 245 km south of Cairo, Egypt, on Aug. 17, 2013.Reuters

Extremists burned down a church in Minya, North Egypt, on Thursday according to a local Coptic Bishop.

"St Mary's Church in the village of Esmaelia al-Bahreia was burned down completely after an attack carried out by extremists," said Bishop Macarius of Minya.

Egyptian media, which reported the fire, has claimed an electric short-circuit caused the incident. However, the Bishop has claimed the fire was arson, according to World Watch Monitor.

St Mary's Church was a makeshift church made from wood, located six kilometres North of Minya City. It was used in lieu of a "proper church" due to government restrictions:

"The makeshift church has been used for worship for over a year... since a proper church is yet to be authorised by the government since 2009," the Bishop said on Facebook.

In 2013 there was an upsurge in attacks on churches in Egypt, and a number of Christians were killed.

According to a report by the Coptic rights group Maspero Youth Union, around 65 churches were destroyed, some dating back to the fourth century.

Islam is Egypt's state religion, but Christians make up around 10-15 per cent of the population.

Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army general, has made public statements advocating for religious tolerance and the 2014 constitution includes better religious freedom provisions, however they are yet to be implemented.

In February four teenage Copts and their teacher were found guilty of making a short video mocking ISIS and received prison sentences.