An angry crowd of Muslims reportedly looted and burned the homes of 80 Christian families in an Egyptian village Friday after rumors circulated that they wanted to build a church.
Christian media reported the violence taking place in the village of Qarayat al Bayda, near Alexandria, quoting witnesses who claimed police did little to protect them. The alleged violence began after noon prayers, when a throng of Muslims gathered in the front of a home being built, Mousa Zarif told International Christian Concern.
"They were chanting slogans against us,” Zarif said. “Among these slogans were, 'By no means shall there be a church here.'"
Egypt is roughly 85 percent Muslim and Coptic Christians have long faced persecution in the Arab nation. The village in which the attacks were reported to have occurred has no Christian churches, according to International Christian Concern.
The incident prompted renewed calls for the government in Cairo to do more to protect religious minorities.
Naim Aziz told Daily News Egypt the homes, a community center and other properties owned by Christians were destroyed. Police initially arrested Aziz and Zarif, according to reports. They also reportedly arrested six Muslims, who were quickly released, while holding the Christians on bail after charging them for praying and building without a permit.
Persecution of Christians in Egypt has prompted the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to encourage the US State Department to include Egypt on its list of “countries of particular concern,” where “particularly severe violations of religious freedom are perpetuated or tolerated,” according to ChristianToday.com.