Priest Sentenced to Jail for Construction Violation

In Egypt, on Sept. 30, 2011, 3,000 villagers set fire to and then demolished the Mar Gerges building in the El Marenab village of Aswan. The tension in El Marenab began in August; when Muslim extremists were angry and protested construction renovations at Mar Gerges’s Christian Church. Muslim villagers claimed that church officials were turning a guesthouse on church property into a church. They were also upset that symbols of the Christian faith, such as crosses, could be seen from outside the church building.

Then this month the priest of the church in Mar Gerges church in Egypt was sentenced to six months in jail. You might be wondering what happened to the mob that burned down the church? The answer:  no one, neither the imams who called for the attack nor the Muslim villagers who destroyed the church building last September have been charged with any crime.

Why was the Priest of the Church that was burned to the ground sentenced to jail? The new construction on the church (before it was burnt to the ground) was 2.5 meters taller than the construction plans showed. “The whole village is full of people who are building against their licenses,” Bolous said. “So the whole thing is, ‘why did they only cite the church and pick on the extra bit of building?'” Bolous claims this is much more than a building code violation issue. It clearly shows the double standard between Christians and Muslims in the Law.

Osama Refaat, Bolous’ attorney, said the citation was unusual because by law, contractors, not property owners, are responsible for permit violations. “The right law was used, but in the wrong way,” Refaat said.

Do you think this is right? What if anything can be done?

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