19 Muslims in Egypt have been charged for attacking, looting and setting fire to properties of Christians in the southern province of Minya in protest at the use of homes and halls for worship.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said “extremists” attacked the village of Demshaw Hashem because of the “existence of a church”.
“Extremists attacked Copts, stole quantities of jewelry and money, destroyed household appliances and set fire to property,” the diocese’s statement read, according to AFP.
Three people including a firefighter were injured during the three-hour-long attack. Those who attacked the homes were either residents of the village or came from nearby areas, according to World Watch Monitor.
The Christian persecution watchdog said the small Coptic community had been warned about the attack on August 31 a few days before it took place.
Although the church informed authorities of the threat of a possible attack, the diocese statement explains that authorities only came to the Christians’ aid after the attack occurred. As many as 38 suspects have reportedly been arrested in connection with the attack.
Nineteen Muslims were arrested on charges of “perpetrating unrest and attacking others for allegedly building a church without licence”, Egyptian news outlet Wataninet reported.
The population of the attacked village, Demshaw Hashem, 155 miles south of Cairo is 30,000 people. It only includes a small Coptic community of 450.
Egypt operates a licensing system for churches but violence against Christians has reportedly prompted officials to deny the necessary permission on “security” grounds.
More than 3,700 Christian churches have applied to be formally recognised but just 220 licences have been granted, according to Wataninet.
As approximately 10 percent of the Egyptian population is Christian, Egypt currently ranks as the 17th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List.