Several Christians have been killed in Egypt in the last week, in the wake of the military overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi July 2. On July 6 a Coptic Christian priest identified as Father Mina Aboud Sharween was gunned down in the Sinai town of El Arish, near the Gaza border. CBN News reported that Islamic gunmen in an SUV pulled up beside a vehicle driven by the 39-year-old Coptic priest, who was out shopping, and opened fire. Witnesses said that after killing the priest the gunmen dragged him from his vehicle and fled in it.
While it is unclear who exactly was responsible for the assassination, the Muslim Brotherhood, which had backed Morsi’s presidency, had harshly criticized Pope Tawadros, spiritual head of Egypt’s eight million Coptic Christians, after he expressed his support for the military’s removal of Morsi and for the suspension of Egypt’s constitution. Morning Star News, which monitors Christian persecution around the world, reported that “in the weeks leading up to the demonstrations against Morsi by millions, Islamists had issued threats against Christians, whom they held responsible for the movement.”
While Sharween was the first Christian leader killed since Morsi’s ouster, several other Christians have been killed in upper Egypt since July 2. “A country contact for the Voice for the Martyrs (VOM) reports nine Christians died in violence in the Upper Egyptian village of Al Dabaa, near Luxor,” related CBN News July 8. “Christian homes and shops were looted and burned and at least one church building was destroyed.”
The VOM contact said that Christians had been assaulted in Dalga and Der Mawas villages in Menia city, and at least three churches had been attacked and burned. “The army and the police forces are working so hard to protect Egyptians everywhere in Egypt, especially in the Upper Egypt area,” the VOM contact said.
Morning Star News related the killings of four Coptic Christians July 5 in a village near Luxor. The trouble began when a Muslim mob attacked a Coptic Christian identified as 42-year-old Emil Naseem Saroufeem, “known to be a supporter of the Tamard or ‘Rebel’ movement that began gathering in cities across Egypt on June 30 to demonstrate against Morsi,” reported Morning Star.
The mob began beating Saroufeem, “who escaped briefly when two relatives, Mouhareb Noushy Habib, 38, and Romany Noushy, 33, hid him,” the Morning Star account continued. The mob “caught up with the three Christians in the apartment of Rasem Tawadrous Aqladios, 56. Saroufeem and Aqladios were bludgeoned to death. The other two, Habib and Noushy, died when they were beaten and repeatedly stabbed.”
The account was related by Safwat Samaan, a spokesman for the human rights group Nation Without Limits. Samaan said that after the killings, the mob turned its wrath on other Coptics in the village, beating them and looting and burning their homes. Samaan said that in all, some 20 homes were destroyed, and Christians in the area have been too fearful to return to the area.
“The situation is calm there now,” Samaan told Morning Star News, “but there are about 95 Christian families that are staying at the church of Mar Youhana because they are too scared to go back. Also, a lot of these people had their homes burned down, and if not that, a lot of them had their houses torn apart and looted. The church is trying to get them to return home, but a lot of them are refusing.”
Samaan predicted that Morsi’s overthrow and the continuing military rule will spark more attacks on Christians in the country. “People from the Muslim Brotherhood are taking it upon themselves to wage jihad to defend Morsi and their religion,” he said.
Ishak Ibrahim, an official with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said that Coptic Christians in the country “know very well there is a price that has to be paid, and what the Muslim Brotherhood people are saying is stirring people up against the Copts, even though the Copts were just participating in democracy just like everyone else.”
Photo of mourners at a funeral for two Coptic Christians killed in Egypt: AP Images