Egypt’s Education Ministry has rejected another court order to return a Coptic primary school to the Coptic Bishopric of Baylana and Dar as-Salam in the southern governorate of Sohag and, instead, issued a decision to postpone the handover for three years. The order came after an appeals process, which has run on for 24 years.
The Bishopric has now called on the Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, to step in and finalise the matter and also filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General against Minister of Education Tareq Shawqy and Sohag Governor Ayman Abdel-Moneim for failing to execute the court ruling, the Coptic news site Watani reports.
The school, built by the Bishopric decades ago on land it owned, was taken over by the government when it nationalised Church-owned Coptic schools in the 1960s.
Though 30 years later the schools were returned to the Church, the Baylana school remained with the Ministry of Education.
In 1993 the Copts took the matter to court, which ruled in favour of handing over the school to the Bishopric. The Ministry, however, never complied and has now ignored the final deadline set by the court on 20 August.
The Coptic community in Sohag has faced pressure from other sides too. In November last year a number of houses and shops owned by Copts in Al-Naghameesh village were attacked and looted over rumours they planned to open a church.
Many other Coptic communities face the same opposition and harassment. As World Watch Monitor reported last year, it is almost impossible for Coptic Christians to obtain a license to build a church in Egypt.
In neighbouring Sudan, there are also continuous disputes over Church land and schools, as World Watch Monitor frequently reports.