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Muslims, Christians clash over 'Martyrs' Church' construction

Pending an official ruling on laws governing the building of churches in Egypt, local religious communities have taken matters into their own hands, underscoring tensions between Christians and Muslims in the country.
A special forces police officer stands guard to secure the area around Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral before a Coptic Christmas mass in Cairo January 6, 2015. Egypt's Coptic Christmas falls on Wednesday and security is typically tightened at churches ahead of the holiday after a string of attacks on Christian targets over the past years. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany (EGYPT - Tags: RELIGION MILITARY CIVIL UNREST) - RTR4K8RY

CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's decision to build a church bearing the names of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded in a video that surfaced on social media on Feb. 15 by the Islamic State in Libya, is not being well received by members of the local community.

The absence of a law regulating the construction of houses of worship generally, specifically churches, has placed the matter in the hands of hard-line religious groups. Reconciliation sessions, which have become commonplace and in many cases have replaced the law in Upper Egypt, are held to make peace between conflicting families or groups. The sessions are also held to prevent sectarian strife, further infringing on the rule of law.

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