CAIRO: A Coptic monk was arrested early Thursday after protesting against the construction of a road through what he says are archeological grounds of a monastery in Wadi al-Raian in Fayoum governorate, Youm7 reported.
Paul Riani is to serve a 5-year jail sentence he was given in 2015 in absentia on charges of squatting on the natural reserve of Wadi al-Raian and attacking archeological researchers. A year ago, Orthodox Church suspended the monk.
The government plans to establish a highway linking oases in Western Deserts, the El -Zaafarana Road of El Ain al Sukhna in the Eastern desert, and the Mediterranean city of Dabaa. The under-construction road is planned pass through the St. Macarius of Alexandria Monastery, located on 13,000 acres in Wadi al-Riaian. A group of monks, however, have opposed construction through the monastery grounds, which they say dates to the fourth century.
Per an agreement between the government and Pope Tawadros II, the government will allocate only 3,000 acres to the monastery, where 110 apprentice monks and 40 monks live, while the rest of the land would be taken by the government for the project or sold to Bedouins living onthese lands, according to Copts-united website.
Paul and a group of priests rejected the agreement between the government and the Orthodox Church that controlled the monastery since 2012, Priest Marteros Riani told Youm7, denying media reports claimed that Paul had been abducted.
After the January 25 Revolution, monks of the monastery “illegally” took control over pieces of lands of nature reserve, comes under the Ministry of Environment surrounding it, said former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, the presidential aide for national projects, Wednesday during his meeting with Coptic Bishop Jeremiah, the head of Cultural Coptic Orthodox Center, and Fayoum governor Amir Sayed Ahmed. Mahlab told Youm7 that the road will pass in the area “squatted” by the monks.
Additional reporting by Sara Allam