Your prayers are needed for a family in Egypt following the tragic murder of a mother and her four-year-old son.
Your prayers are needed for Christians in Egypt who are frequently the target of violent attacks
A Christian woman in Egypt and her four-year-old son were tragically murdered on Saturday (3 April) by an extremist Muslim tuk-tuk driver.
Mariam Mossa Yacoub, aged 35, was with her two children in Beni Mazar city, in the Minya Governorate, when Rageb Abdullah – who was known to Mariam and her husband, Akram Sedky Hanna – began harassing her. He had been stalking Mariam for at least a month beforehand and had secretly been following her just before the incident which took place at around 10am.
“He had previously harassed her, asking for her telephone number because he wanted a relationship with her,” explains Mariam’s cousin, Youssef Rizk. “This time he was trying to force her to ride his tuk-tuk. She refused and threatened to report it to the police.”
Mariam with her four-year-old son, Karas
This angered Rageb Abdullah who attacked Mariam, killing her. Her son, Karas, tried to defend his mother but he was also murdered. Her six-year-old daughter, Rimas, managed to run away and hide.
“She is traumatised,” Youssef shares. “She can’t sleep. She saw everything. She can’t forget what happened to her mother and brother. She saw her mother and brother killed in front of her with her own eyes.”
Rageb Abdullah, 37, has been arrested and pleaded guilty to the murders. He is being held in custody pending further investigation. Many Coptic Christians in Egypt, shaken and distraught by the incident, are fearful that he will be released without charge and are calling for justice.
A human rights activist in Egypt, who cannot be named for security reasons, says ‘there is no doubt’ that Mariam was killed because of her faith.
"The other reason she was killed was because she was a woman" Human rights activist in Egypt
“The person who killed Mariam will have known that Coptic Christians have no rights in Egypt,” he said. “There have been many crimes against Christians, so he will have felt free to carry out the attack. Christians are weak, people can do anything against them and they won’t be punished. If the judgement was equal between Muslims and Christians this incident wouldn’t have taken place.
“The other reason she was killed was because she was a woman – he wanted a relationship with her, but she refused him.”
This attack took place in Upper Egypt where the lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks. The Minya Governate is the most notorious area in Upper Egypt with the highest number of attacks on Christians.
Christian women, in rural areas especially, find themselves targeted by radical Islamic groups, and as a result, kidnapping for either conversion, ransom or forced marriage is not uncommon.
Dr David Landrum, Open Doors UK & Ireland Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs, says, “This was clearly a premeditated attack which took place because the attacker felt confident that he could kill Mariam and her son with impunity because they are Christians.
“We want to see justice for Coptic Christians in Egypt who are subjected to horrific injustices such as this.
“Usually, the local authorities use so-called 'reconciliation sessions' to resolve a conflict, which often means that Muslim attackers go free. This has resulted in a culture of impunity for violence against Christians. For this to stop, perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
“This was a terrible incident,” says Father Ishaq Emil Sourial from the church Mariam attended. “Mariam was a member of the church, everyone loved her, she was serving at the church and she always went to mass and prayer meetings. She was loved by everyone.”
In 2020, eight Christians were killed for their faith in Egypt, which is number 16 on the World Watch List. In another recent incident which took place last month, 32-year-old Girgis Nan Yacoub was found dead a month after being kidnapped. He served as a deacon at his church.
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