AFRICA/EGYPT - Imminent agreement to the dispute around the lands of St. Macarius Monastery

Friday, 15 July 2016 oriental churches

Fayyum (Agenzia Fides) - Egyptian lawyer Ihab Ramzy, who protects the interests of the Coptic Orthodox Church, has announced details of an imminent agreement between the parties that should put an end to the long dispute which arose around the territories linked to the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of San Macarius, in the area of Wadi el Rayan. The case broke out again in early 2015, around the proposed construction of a road that was to join the town of Fayyum to an oasis area crossing the territories around the Coptic Monastery of St. Macarius, threatening an archaeological area that extends around a church dating back to the IV century.
The project also put at risk the water supply of the Monastery and some cultivated areas belonging to it. At that time (see Fides 25/02/2015), the monks gave life to an initiative of non-violent resistance, by lying on the path of the bulldozers working on the project and led by workers who approached the lands of the Monastery shouting "Allah Ackbar". Later, activists and local political leaders also launched a petition to ask Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to block the project. In the appeal, the controversy on the arterial road project was defined as a "time bomb" able to aggravate the already alarming religious conflicts recorded in the Country.
Now, according to the news published by lawyer Ihab Ramzy, the agreement which has almost been approved provides for the definitive concession to the Coptic Orthodox Church of 3 thousand acres of land around the Monastery, as an area destined to cultural tourism. As part of the agreement, the story of a condemned monk whose behaviour was judged aggressive towards state officials, during a frenzied stage of contrasts will try to be solved.
In the past, due to the dispute of land, tensions increased between St. Macarius Monastery and the Episcopal Coptic Orthodox hierarchy, which on several occasions had denied any legitimacy to the protests of the monks. In May 2015, the Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Bishops, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Tawadros II, approved and published some disciplinary measures to make the episcopate control over the lives of the Coptic monasteries, male and female tighter. The solution of the dispute around the lands of St. Macarius Monastery is also a sign of tensions which have overcome and intra-ecclesial misunderstandings within the Coptic Orthodox Church. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 15/07/2016)