By Katie Mansfield (Express)
Vigilantes torched and looted homes in Baidaa village after hearing rumours worship was taking place.
And the horror continued when six CHRISTIANS were arrested for the brutal attack.
Naim Aziz Moussa, who was one of the Christians taken into custody, had offered the top two floors of his home to Christian villagers to use for worship.
Visits by a Coptic priest to the house near Amria, a small town south of Alexandria, fuelled speculation.
A baying mob gathered and threw stones, destroyed a car and shouted “We don’t want a church, we will knock down the church building,Egypt is an Islamic country.”
Mr Moussa said: “More than 5,000 people, including young and old, men and women, mobbed my home. They were shouting: ‘One way or another, we’ll bring the church down to the ground’.
“‘No church will stand here in the village. It’s either us or you, infidels!’
“The building was ransacked, including our home. My brother’s nearby new flat was also destroyed.”
Many of the 80 Christians who live in the village of Baidaa, an area is heavily influenced by Muslim Salafists, were injured in the chaos, including women and children.
Local priest Father Karas narrowly escaped the violent crowd who smashed his car as police were called to the scene.
Mr Moussa said: “They were crying out: ‘Islamic! Islamic! We don’t want churches in Amreyya!’”
“As the police arrived at the scene, angry Muslims were shouting, while their women were showing signs of jubilation that the police were there. “They were shouting out in support of the police, while at the same time stressing their rejection of the church on Islamic grounds.
“The police chief could see me bleeding from my wounds. I complained to him about what happened to me. He said I deserved this, and more.
“The police did nothing to protect the Christians. Right in their presence, more Christian properties were attacked. Father Karas’s car was smashed yet again.”
Ten homes were looted and two were torched as the mob destroyed all the fittings and fixtures used in the house for worship.
Coptic Christians have long struggled to legally build churches in Egypt, despite a growing Christian population.
A new church can only be built by presidential decreers, which is only issued once a year.
Villagers reported police officers attended evening Muslim prayers in front of the Christians’ homes and used loudspeakers to broadcast the service.
Police arrested six Muslims and six Christians in the chaos, with the Muslims released to break their fast.
The Christians were later released on bail and changed with building without permission and praying without a permit.
Mr Moussa was among those arrested.
The father-of-four is now sleeping rough with his pregnant wife after security forces banned the family from returning home.
He said: “When at the police station, I requested the officer to take me to hospital as my head was bleeding. I was kept till midnight, before being allowed to go to the hospital, where I was stitched.
“We’re sleeping rough. The security forces are not allowing us to go back home, unless we opt for extrajudicial conciliation.
“The police tell me I can only go home if I agree to reconcile with my opponents.”
The Moussa family have so far rejected the police bargain.
A spokesman for Open Doors UK, a Christian advocacy group, said: “Persecution of Christians is on the rise in Egypt, last year it rose two places to 22 on our World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian.
“Violent incidents like this one reflect the tensions that run through everyday life for Christians who are a minority in that country.
“Christian women are particularly vulnerable, often changing their Christian names to Muslim ones to avoid rape or kidnapping.
“Open Doors is campaigning for freedom of religious belief for everyone – we want people to respect and allow others their right to believe as laid out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The situation for Christians in Egypt is said to be getting worse with Christian women particularly vulnerable.
There have also been reports of Christian women being abducted and forced to convert to Islam and marry older Muslim men.