The U.S. Copts Association says Egyptian officials outside of Cairo destroyed a newly built Coptic church just hours after it opened its doors and held its first prayer meeting.
The church had reportedly obtained all the proper permissions from President Hosni Mubarak’s administration to build the facility in Al-Ubor city. Police forces reportedly participated in the destruction.
The first building opened Saturday. The first prayer meeting was held Sunday.
According to a statement by the association, Galal Sayed Al-Ahl, the mayor of the city, had been threatening the congregation during the building of the church’s gate. Hours after the congregation finished its first prayer meeting, Al-Ahl and his local police forces stormed the church, arresting 10 members of the Coptic community and flattened what was built of the church.
This is not the first time Mubarak has issued permission to build a church only to allow it to be destroyed by local government officials who report to him, according to the association.
“It seems that there is an unspoken deal between higher government officials and the local officials when it comes to church construction in Egypt,” said association President Michael Meunier. “Under international scrutiny, the Egyptian government issues limited number of new permits for church construction, but it gives all incentives to its local officials to stop the construction.”
The association is calling on the Mubarak regime to conduct an investigation. It says in prior church-destruction incidents, no officials have been punished and the churches have been forced to bear the cost of rebuilding.