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Egypt: Situation deteriorates for Christians

27 February 2017

With attacks on Christians increasing and kidnapping of Christians going uninvestigated, the situation in Egypt is worsening.

Copts flee El-Arish after sixth murder in month

Egyptian Christians are beginning to flee Sinai's largest city, El-Arish, after yet another Copt was killed there. Kamel Youssef, a 40-year-old plumber, was killed on 23 February after militants stormed his home and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. Some sources say the family's house was set on fire after the shooting.

This latest death followed the killing of a father and son the day before, after an Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group vowed to 'eliminate' Egyptian Christians.

Six Copts have been killed in El-Arish in the past month and now a number of Coptic families are leaving, including the family of murdered schoolteacher Gamal Tawfiq, who was shot dead on his way to school on 16 Feb, and the family of the murdered father and son, who will stay in their hometown of Suez, where they had travelled to bury their dead.

Another seven families have reportedly travelled to Ismailiya, on the Suez Canal, where a church has provided them with accommodation. The pastor there reported that he is expecting around 20 families to arrive. A Cairo church is reportedly helping families to move their belongings.

Deaths at the hands of militant Islamists in the Sinai Peninsula are not new, especially since the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. But whereas the Egyptian security forces were previously targeted, it seems that now Coptic Christians are also being attacked.

Egyptian girl kidnapped as she plans her wedding

The family of an 18-year-old Egyptian Christian woman, missing since 26 January, have accused the police of complicity in her kidnapping after they failed to take action against an alleged suspect who admitted involvement.

Hanan Adly Girgis was found to be missing from the family home in Esna, a village in Upper Egypt, when her brothers returned after leaving her in the care of another brother and his wife while they tended their crops late into the night. The family believe Hanan was snatched when her brother, who was looking after her, was lured outside with a false report of a thief near the family's livestock shed. He went to guard the shed leaving the womenfolk unprotected in the house.

Hanan was found to be missing and all her belongings were undisturbed. Her brother Romany said: "At 3am, when my brothers and I returned, we found the door open. Our mother was sleeping but Hanan wasn't in her room. We thought she might be asleep with my sister-in-law and woke her, but Hanan wasn't there. We searched everywhere and went to relatives to see if she had gone to them but none of them had seen her."

He explained that Hanan had no reason to suddenly leave home: "There was no disagreement between us, she was very happy. She was engaged to a man she'd chosen to be with. They had planned to go and buy jewellery together the following day; and she had just bought new clothes for her cousin's wedding on Sunday."

After a search failed to find Hanan, her brothers and their lawyer made a formal complaint to the police, accusing a neighbour, Mohamed Ahmed Nubi Soliman, 27, of her kidnapping. Prosecutors summoned Soliman and he admitted a connection with the incident. However, he was released due to lack of physical evidence.

"There is a state of police indifference towards the case of Hanan," said the family's lawyer Barsoum Wahba. "They did nothing to help the brothers... They said 'give us two days and we will bring her back,' but these are words without actions. They aren't serious even though they know they have the capability to know where Hanan is and who kidnapped her.

"Because Hanan, the victim, is a Christian girl we see inaction. It is a farce. We want people to deal with us as human beings and not deal with as second-class citizens. We feel we have no rights."

Egypt is number 21 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Egyptian Christians live in a deeply polarised society, caught between secular nationalists and radical Islamists. Open Doors works through local churches and partners in Egypt to provide support for persecuted believers, including training, education projects, advocacy support and medical outreach.

Please pray:

  • For Hanan's quick, safe return to her family
  • For comfort for the families of those recently murdered in Egypt
  • For an end to the insecurity faced by the Coptic families who are fleeing to Ismailiya.

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Find out more about persecution in Egypt.