Although Coptic Christians in the village of Gala’, Samalout district, Upper Egypt, had received all the proper permits and legal paperwork to renovate their dilapidated Virgin Mary Church, some Muslims in the village will not have it.
Local police first invited the Muslim leaders who refused to see the church building renovated to a meeting with Coptic elders. The Muslims insisted that the Copts must first accept a number of discriminatory restrictions, including that the building look like a house not a church—certainly no crosses visible anywhere on the building’s exterior—and its entrance must be a narrow door on the side, not at the front of the building which faces the street.
Although initial reports said some compromise was formally reached, “Muslim youth” still responded with violence, attacking Coptic homes, businesses, and persons, often by hurling stones. Islamic slogans were constantly yelled, including “There is no god but Allah” and “Islamic! Islamic!”—a reference to the paranoid sentiment that if a single church is built or merely renovated, Egypt will cease to be Islamic.
Not only did local police, according to human rights activists and eye witnesses, fail to respond to the Muslim assailants, who ultimately were going against the law, since the proposed renovation is 100% legal, some reportedly joined in on the attack on the Christians.
At the same time that Egyptian Muslims were attacking the Virgin Mary Church in Gala’, in nearby Syria, the Islamic State destroyed another church, ironically also named Virgin Mary Church.