Egyptian authorities have detained 15 people pending an investigation into an attack on an unlicensed Coptic Christian church in a village south of Cairo, a security source said on Sunday.
Dozens of Muslims from the village of Kafr al-Waslin attacked the church after Friday prayers, smashing the windows and breaking everything inside, the archdiocese of Atfih said in a statement.
The diocese had applied to legalize the status of the church, which has housed worshippers for 15 years after a church building law was passed in 2016, the statement said. Those detained are accused of stirring sectarian strife, harming national unity and destroying private property, one judicial source told Reuters.
The owner of the building was also in custody pending inquiries into the operations of the facility by state security and the interior ministry, the source added.
Egyptian Christians make up about a tenth of the country’s almost 95 million population and are the Middle East’s largest Christian community. They have long complained of discrimination in the majority-Muslim country. The government does not make the official number of Christians public in its census and Christians have long complained of being undercounted.
“Some Muslims object to turning this building into a church because there’s a really big mosque beside it,” one villager who asked not to be named told Reuters.
“There are strong social ties between the Muslims and Christians [in our village,” he added.