A resident who lives next to the church blamed extremist Islamists for spreading news of the accusations in order to enrage crowds and incite an attack on the church. “They are terrorizing us. They try to find a reason to attack us,” said the resident, asking not to be named for fear of retribution. “In no time, this village turned to a ball of fire.”
“We know those behind it,” he said, referring to the Group for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, an organization which he said over the past two months has been visiting cafes and ordering people not to smoke. They force Muslims to go to the mosque to pray, he added.
The villages of Qena are among the poorest in Egypt. They also have a significant Coptic Christian population.
Flare-ups of violence between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims have become more frequent in the two years President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising, an event that also left the country’s security weakened.