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Pope Shenouda makes angry statements on monastery attack


By Magdy Samaan


First Published: June 8, 2008

Pope Shenouda refused to be part of mediation talks.


CAIRO: Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Church, called for heavy security presence around the Upper Egyptian Abo Fana monastery during a phone-in on Channel 2’s El Beit Beitak show on Saturday.

The Pope also accused the Arab tribes living in the area of stealing LE 1 million worth of precious belongings from the monastery, adding that the cause of the clashes was not a land dispute.

“It was a criminal act perpetrated by criminals,” he said.  

The Pope also condemned the kidnap and torture of two monks, who, the Pope alleged were asked to renounce their faith.

“The attacks began 150 meters away from the monastery, and they got closer and closer until they were next to the monastery where the monks were kidnapped and violently tortured. They were pressured to renounce their religion by spitting on the cross. When they refused, they were beaten.

They were then asked to declare the Islamic shahada [There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Prophet] and when they refused, they beat them again,” said the Pope.

He also stated that he refuses to be part of any mediation talks.

“These are people who got used to violence want to force the monks to pay protection money or else they won’t allow them to build a fence around the monastery… I am not talking about Muslim-Christian strife. I am talking about the safety of these monks who have reclaimed this land.

“The government owns the land, but the Arabs are against the idea of the monastery reclaiming the land and expanding,” he said.

He explained that “such clashes are not new but began years ago.”

In 2006, he recalled, a similar attack took place. A formal reconciliation was reached between the monks and the Arabs, who agreed that the land belonged to the Abo Fana monastery and promised to help build a fence around it.

The Pope also explained that the Arabs pledged to pay a fine of LE 500,000 in the event of further attacks.

“And despite all these promises, clashes still continued to happen with the most recent ones involving live ammunition,” he said.

General Ahmed Diaa El Din, governor of Minya phoned in following the Pope’s call and promised that an official meeting will be convened “to get to the roots of the problem.”

He also rejected the idea of holding informal reconciliation talks because “they get us nowhere … they are quick fixes that don’t help us reach long-term solutions.”

Eighteen people involved in the clashes are currently under investigation – seven of which are Christians and 11 Muslims.

Clashes had erupted at 5 pm near the Abo Fana Monastery on the outskirts of Minya a week ago due to a wall being built around the monastery, which neighbors claimed would harm their crops.

Muslim Khalil Mohammed Ibrahim was killed in the clashes. Mussa Girgis, a priest at the parish, claimed that three of the five injured monks were kidnapped and tortured after the attack.


Source : Daily News Egypt

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