Last month, a Christian-owned school in the Aswan Province in Egypt was attacked by hundreds of knife-wielding assailants. The Islamic perpetrators held two nuns hostage for hours and created quite a stir at a facility owned by the Notre Dame Language Schools. Following the rampage, a "reconciliation meeting" was held during which the manager of the school claims an extortion attempt was made.
Compass Direct News initially reported on the March 4 attack, providing the dramatic details surrounding the extremists' actions:
Two nuns in Upper Egypt faced “unimaginable fear” – with one later hospitalized over the emotional trauma – when 1,500 Muslim villagers brandishing swords and knives trapped them inside a guesthouse last week and threatened to burn them out.
The next day, the assailants frightened children at the school; attendance has since dropped by more than a third.
Accusing the nuns of building a church at the site, the throng on March 4 chanted Islamic slogans as they surrounded the guesthouse of a privately run, public school in the village of Abu Al-Reesh, in Aswan Province. Two nuns, volunteer teachers at Notre Dame Language Schools, barricaded themselves into the school’s guesthouse for about eight hours. [...]
Conservative Muslims began milling around the school and accosting school employees at 2 p.m. on March 4. A group of men with swords stopped one employee and accused him of “building a church, and we are coming to attack the place,” the employee told Melad, who was at the scene of the attack.
According to The Christian Post, the extremists demanded in the follow-up reconciliation meeting to the attack that peace would be possible if portions of land were signed over to the extremists. The Notre Dame Language Schools, despite risking more attacks, refused the offer, according to school manager Magdy Melad. Melad explained that striking such a deal would set a dangerous precedent in which Muslims could attack Christian properties and then seize them through unfair reconciliation council meetings.
While the school refused to give its land away, its associated officials did pledge not to prosecute any of the hundreds of individuals who waged the attack.
"The only thing we had to give away was our rights," Melad said, as he claimed that the threat of future violence compeled him to make the decision. "This was all against the law."
These so-called "reconciliation meetings" have come under fire for the unfairness many claim they breed. While Islamic leaders and government officials believe they are a viable method of diffusing tensions, others disagree. The Post explains:
"Reconciliation meetings" are held throughout Egypt after incidents of "sectarian" violence in order to restore calm. Increasingly used during the administration of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the meetings are loosely based on traditional Arabic tribal councils. Supporters of the reconciliation process, mainly government and Islamic leaders, say the meetings offer a way to defuse tensions. Those who oppose the process, including numerous human rights groups and Coptic rights activists, say the meetings are just a way to pressure powerless groups and people into giving away what little rights they have.
The reconciliation meeting in question took place on March 25 and included the local governor, members of the national intelligence service and police officials. In the end, Melad was assured that the school would "never have any problems again" -- a pledge that, considering the sociopolitical schema in the country, is hard to believe.
As for the guesthouse that was attacked, it has been stripped bare and the government has ordered Melad not to use it, despite proof that it has not been used as a house of worship. If he or other school staffers reject this demand, their lives could be at stake, as Islamic members of the village could take retributive action.
(H/T: The Christian Post)