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A 55-year-old Coptic Christian man was kidnapped and held for ransom. Although his family eventually paid, and the Muslim abductors took the money, they still killed the hapless Copt.
On April 26 in Sohag, Upper Egypt, Makram Nazir was returning home from his second job in the middle of the night when he was seized. His abductors then called his brother and demanded one million Egyptian pounds (equivalent of $131,000 USD).
Being an impossible amount to raise, the Coptic man’s family negotiated a significantly reduced price by phone with the abductors. The brother went to the local police station, provided them with all the information, including recordings of the phone calls, but, according to Watan News, “no one made a single move or took the matter seriously.”
After paying the ransom, three days passed before Nazir’s family found the Coptic man’s corpse in a canal.
Killing Christian hostages even after loved ones pay their ransom is not uncommon in Egypt. Such was the case, for instance, of 6-year-old Cyril Joseph: on May 2013, it was reported that his “family is in tatters after paying 30,000 pounds to the abductor, who still killed the innocent child and threw his body in his sewer system, where the body, swollen and moldy, was exhumed.”
Coptic teacher in Minya Province, woman in Cairo latest victims of vitriol.
(Morning Star News) A Coptic Christian teacher in Egypt allegedly shot by the teenage brother of one of his students has died, human rights activists said yesterday.
Ashraf Alahm Atef Hanna, an English teacher at Marzouk Prep School in the village of Marzouk in Minya Province, succumbed to injuries from the shooting on Tuesday (April 8). He was 35.
In what some activists said was a sign of both endemic disrespect toward educators and the vitriol of some segments of Egyptian society toward Christians, Hanna was shot in the head on April 1 by the 16-year-old Muslim brother of one of his students. According to human rights activists and local media sources, the teacher caught one of his students smoking in class. When the teacher told the boy to stop smoking, the Muslim student cursed at the teacher and insulted him in front of class.
The teacher responded by striking the student, allowed under school guidelines, and the boy stormed out of the class in anger.
The student later returned to the school with his family, which area residents said has ties to local Islamic extremist groups. The group chased the teacher through the school, and after catching him, they beat him and shot him once in the head. He was taken immediately to a hospital, where he lay near death for a week.
Authorities arrested at least four members of the family, including Mohamed Naser Mustafa, the one alleged to have shot Hanna.
Mina Thabet, spokesman and founding member of The Maspero Youth Union, said that the near constant din of anti-Christian vitriol from Islamists that creates and reinforces hate toward the Copts is to blame for the killing.
“They have an ideology about creating the ‘other,’” he said. “That’s the problem. They hate everyone different from them. The hate speech is responsible for the majority of sectarian violence and the majority of killings in Egypt.”
The most recent killing comes during a recent spate of seemingly random attacks against Copts in Egypt, including the shooting death of a 25-year-old Coptic woman, Mary Sameh George.
On March 28, in the Ain Shams section of Cairo, George was shot while on her way to take money to three people she knew from a ministry in which she was involved.
Contrary to multiple reports, George was not stabbed or strangled but had been shot in the chest at least once through the windshield of her car, according to her father, Sameh George. He examined her body and said there were no signs of stabbing or strangling.
She was driving near the Church of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Michael in Ain Shams, where supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were rioting. According to George, the mob spotted a cross in her car and a pair of cross earrings she was wearing and, along with the fact that she wasn’t wearing a veil, they discerned that she was a Christian.
The mob pulled her out of her car after she was dead or close to dying, he determined, and then set the vehicle on fire. They left her corpse in the street.
Eyewitness reports of George being stabbed and/or strangled were likely rooted in the chaotic scene and the fact that in the same general area on the same day she was shot, a female journalist and three other Muslims were killed.
No charges have been filed in the killings, and no confirmation of arrests has been released by the government.
George was a law school graduate who was working at a small private company. Her father said that, contrary to media reports, she was not engaged. She had recently told her father that she had no desire to get married because she wanted to dedicate all of her energy to serving God and helping Cairo’s many poor.
“She told me, ‘What good are other people getting out of it?’” Sameh George said. “She said she preferred to work with ministries.”
George said he was devastated by the killing and that his wife is utterly shattered. She is unable to speak to anyone about the loss of her daughter. Still, he said, his daughter’s death has taught a valuable if bitter lesson.
“From what happened to my daughter we learned that we have to be ready,” he said. “We all have to wake up. There is no guarantee when someone is going to die. So we have to start getting prepared now…That’s the thing that we all woke up to.”
On the day Hanna died, several gunmen opened fire on a Coptic-owned electric supply store in the Al-Matariyyah area of Cairo. Although unrelated to the shooting, the attack was widely believed to be part of an effort to incite attacks on Copts in southern Cairo. Two brothers suffered serious injuries, but despite their shop being gutted by bullet fire, they were not killed. No arrests were made in the killing.
On Monday (April 7) a Muslim tried to set fire to the Virgin Mary Church in Mansheet Nasr, on the outskirts of Cairo, by pouring gasoline on the one of the church buildings. Copts at the building turned him away, but he returned later with an unspecified weapon. Thabet of the Maspero group said three people were seriously injured and needed hospitalization.
Three people, including a girl aged eight, died when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a wedding party outside a Coptic Christian church in Cairo on Sunday.
At least nine others were wounded in the attack in the Giza neighborhood of the city, officials said, according to the BBC.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The unidentified attackers fired indiscriminately as people left the church. A man and a girl were killed outside the church and a woman died on her way to hospital.
Coptic priest Thomas Daoud Ibrahim told Reuters he was inside the church when the gunfire erupted.
Another priest, Beshay Lotfi, told Egyptian media that the church had been left without a police guard since the end of June.
Egypt’s Coptic Christian community makes up around 10% of the country’s 90 million-strong population.
Copts are indigenous to Egypt, their presence predating the Arab conquests of northern Africa. Egyptian Copts have long complained of widespread discrimination, persecution and violence by both the Egyptian state and Islamist non-state actors.
Anti-Christian violence has seriously escalated in the aftermath of the removal of Islamist Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, whose supporters have been accused of scapegoating the Coptic community, after its leader, Pope Tawadros II, came out in support of the move by the army to oust Morsi.
They have generally coexisted peacefully with Sunni Muslims for centuries. The army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi has been followed by some of the worst attacks against Christians in years. Please keep them in your prayers!
When Mary, a 29-year-old Coptic Christian from Minya, Egypt, landed seven months ago at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, many thoughts were swirling in her head.
How would she fare in the United States knowing so little English? Would her brother and other relatives she left behind in Egypt be OK?
Her motivation for leaving an increasingly dangerous Egypt was embodied in her two lively little boys, ages 4 and 7.
“I left my house and my family. It was hard for me, but I was thinking of my kids,” she said recently after Sunday liturgy at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Va. She said she was being harassed and threatened for being a Christian, identifiable by the small traditional Coptic cross tattoo on her wrist. She had seen churches and homes burned in her city, and was too worried about the violence to send her children to school.
Mary — who asked to be identified by only her first name while she works to get permanent resident status — and her husband originally went to Saudi Arabia after leaving Egypt. But coming from Minya, which has one of Egypt’s largest Coptic Christian populations, they didn’t feel at home in Saudi Arabia, where they couldn’t find any Coptic churches.
Instead, they traveled to the United States and connected with the growing Coptic community in the Washington, D.C., area.
‘Home Away From Home’
Attendance at St. Mark has never been higher. It’s added more church services to accommodate the overflow crowds, holding some events in the attached elementary school gym and initiating an Arabic-language liturgy on Saturday morning for the newcomers.
Traditional Coptic chanted hymns are performed by a choir using small hand-held cymbals and the triangle.
St. Mark was established in 1976 with about 80 families, according to its website. The concrete domed church was built in 1997 and now has more than 3,500 members.
The congregation, mainly from Egypt, grows in waves, and at the moment is at a crest, said Moheb Andrawis, a volunteer at the church. On a recent Sunday, he stood in the lobby of the church wearing a crisp gray suit and a broad smile, greeting everyone walking by him.
St. Mark began the Greeting Ministry two months ago. Andrawis said at first he was meeting about 15 new families each Sunday. The number has since dropped a bit as he’s gotten to know people.
Having such a large Coptic community is both good and bad, he said. “You can find many people to help, of course, but it is very easy to lose someone in the crowd.” The purpose of the ministry is to sign up the newcomers so that the church can reach out with its services.
Those services include helping new immigrants find and furnish apartments, get their driver’s license, and enroll their children in school. The church also provides a free medical clinic.
“In the last two years, we’ve had a huge influx of immigrants coming from Egypt due to the persecution of the Christians specifically being targeted by the Islamists,” said Fr. Paul Girguis, one of four priests at the church. He said about 10 to 13 families are arriving each month.
The animosity in Egypt got worse in 2011, when massive protests led to then-President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. “There was no government and no security. The police weren’t instated at the time. If anyone had an enemy, they could punish their enemy,” said Girguis. Violence erupted in July when Mubarak’s elected successor, Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, was forced out of office and his Muslim Brotherhood party blamed the Copts.
Dozens of churches, Christian-owned shops and homes were burned in the two days following Morsi’s removal. Some Muslims reached out to help, protecting their neighborhoods’ churches from marauding gangs, while local authorities turned a blind eye to the trouble, Girguis said. “It’s going to take a long time for Egypt to stand on its feet. It’s a very broken country.”
The Copts who could afford to leave Egypt applied for asylum in places such as Canada, Australia and countries in Europe. In the United States, Coptic Christians are concentrated in California, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. Once they arrive and get settled with jobs and put their children in schools, they tend to stay.
Continue reading at PBS NEWSHOUR
Supporters of Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi have attacked several houses owned by Copts in Minya’s village of Badraman, Upper Egypt, during their demonstrations recently. The protests were held to express their support for the former president.
The demonstrators called for the return of the former president to power while protesting against the army and Coptic Christians, during which they assaulted Copts and vandalized several homes.
Emeel Asaad, one of the village’s residents, said: “The demonstrators called for the return of Morsi to power during their protest after Friday prayers, chanting ‘It is shameful that Christians became revolutionaries’ and ‘Down with the rule of the pope’.”
He added that the demonstrators threw stones at the Coptic-owned homes, but were stopped after security forces intervened.
The nearby village of Delga witnessed hostile chants against Copts the day before. Father Ayoub Youssef, priest of St. George Catholic Church, revealed that “demonstrators organized marches on Thursday in the village chanting against Copts. Extremists attempted to assault the houses, but wise people prevented them.”
Minya and a number of Egyptian governorates have reported witnessing consecutive brutal attacks against Copts from Morsi’s supporters since Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi was removed from power on July 3.
They say cathedral attack, kidnappings indicate government neglect
The owner of the textile factory that produced them closed down and left Egypt soon after the country’s 2011 revolution. Assad Attiya, a clerk who has worked at the store for 13 years, said the former factory owner, like himself, is Christian.
“The owner is afraid to come back. It is harder here now and we want to leave,” explained Attiya, 48, from behind an almost barren counter he said once had been “lined with beautiful linens.”
By some estimates, tens of thousands of Christians have left post-revolution Egypt. Like the former textile maker, they have left due to concerns over rising Muslim conservatism and a general instability they say is emboldening attacks against them. Perhaps the most dramatic example of sectarian tension yet occurred Sunday in central Cairo, where a crowd attacked Christian mourners after they emerged from a funeral in Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral. The funeral was for four men killed in a Cairo gunfight Friday, in which a Muslim man also was killed. Some of the mourners, joined by sympathetic Muslims, filed out of St. Mark’s Cathedral shouting exhortations against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his largely Islamic government.
The crowd responded to the demonstrators with rocks and gasoline bombs. Police eventually moved in, but numerous and independent news agencies reported police appeared to take the side of crowd, firing tear-gas canisters into the St. Mark’s courtyard and taking no action to stop the attacks on the Christians and their church.
Morsi called Coptic Pope Tawadros II to pledge an investigation and protection for all Egyptians.
“It is now clear that the state needs to take that responsibility far more seriously,” responded Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, in a statement released after Sunday’s violence. Since the 2011 popular uprising that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak, Angaelos said, “we have seen escalating and increasing attacks on Christians, Christian communities, churches and now the Patriarchate during this past period of expected improvement, and so questions must be asked. What are the authorities waiting for? More bloodshed, violence, hostility, alienation, marginalisation, division, or just more anarchy?”
Many Christians are not waiting for the answers.
Attiya, the fabric-story clerk, said he had applied the last two years for U.S. residency — a green card — through a lottery system that Washington sponsors, but wasn’t selected. A few months ago, he requested a tourist visa to visit his brother who works in an amusement park in New York, but was denied. Reflecting his disappointment over how the revolution, which united thousands of Muslims and Christians alike, has transpired.
“All Egyptians, by nature, are kind (but) circumstances are now making everything bad, so I am afraid of you and you are afraid of me. And because of the fear within you, you become bad,” Attiya said.“We all hoped for the best, but no one knows now what will happen,” he said.
Egyptians, including thousands of Muslims, now opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood government demonstrate and strike almost daily. The country’s military and other security forces have been at odds with the new government, and at times have withdrawn completely from different cities around the country. The resulting state of instability, decaying economy and rise in crime have scared many Egyptians into leaving, or trying to — not least of all Egyptian Christians who say they are easy targets when trouble erupts and there is no system in place to protect them.
“They feel if there is an issue, there is vigilante violence,” said Douglas May, a US Catholic priest based in Egypt where he has lived for 18 years.
He said that although there were restrictions on minorities under Mubarak, such as bans on building churches and unauthorized gatherings, Christians felt safer because there was at least a sense the country was under control.
“They feel they are very vulnerable,” May said. “They are surrounded by the (Muslim) majority (and) they no longer feel comfortable.” He equated the Christian situation to those of American blacks before the civil-rights movement, “because there is no system that protects them.”
In Egypt’s regions south of Cairo, for example, kidnappings of Christians are increasingly common. The Associated Press reports more than 150 kidnappings have been reported in the southern province of Minya since the revolution. The kidnappers mostly are criminals motivated by ransom, not religion. But they roam freely, according to minority advocates, because they have little fear they will be held accountable for crimes against the Christian minority.
“The state has made Christian blood cheap,” Father Estephanos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Samalout, about 80 miles south of Cairo, told the AP.
Reports issued by human-rights agencies, as well as the U.S. State Department, conclude government security forces have failed to prevent or stop violence involving Christians in several instances since the revolution. They make special note of an October 9th, 2011 peaceful demonstration made up of mostly Christians in front of the country’s national television building, Maspero, which resulted in as many as 28 deaths.
Sunday’s violence at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo is part of a general collapse of security in Egypt, and evidence that the ruling Muslim Brotherhood is unable to manage the country, said Alfred Raouf, a Christian computer engineer and founding member of Al Dostour, an Egyptian opposition party based on secular principles.
“All this sectarian tension is the product of the (former Presidents) Sadat and Mubarak … who allowed the Islamists to preach hate” of Christians and other non-Muslims, Raouf said. The tension, he said, affects all of Egyptians, Muslims and Christian.“I don’t think Christians are suffering more than Muslims,” he said.
Measured in applications to leave Egypt, the distress is being felt by all Egyptians, according to a European diplomat based in Cairo. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said it was “most likely” a desire for security and economic well-being that had led to an increased demand at her embassy for visas she said were being sought by “Christians as well as Muslims.” She declined to say how many requests her embassy had received recently, or how they could be religiously broken down, but she insisted it was “too easy” to assume Christians were leaving due to religious persecution, suggesting they, as their Muslim compatriots, were seeking “better security and economic opportunities” in other countries, including hers.
There are no official figures for how many Christians have left Egypt since the revolution, though estimates range as high as in the tens of thousands.
“When there is no clarity, rumors abound,” said Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, Patriarch of Egypt’s estimated 250,000 Coptic Catholics. “There are those saying hundreds of thousands, others saying thousands, but there are people leaving, this we know and not only Christians, Muslims are leaving as well.”
He and other Christian leaders, including Pope Tawadros, have publicly called on their communities “not to be afraid,” and to “pray for stability and peace in the homeland.” But some have also admitted that convincing their communities to stay is becoming harder to do.
“I don’t have what is needed to convince them not to travel abroad,” Sedrak said. “All I can do is to tell them we are here in our country, (and) we have a message. Yes, we have difficulties here, but there are difficulties outside too.”
Salah, a 35-year-old father of four, said it was hard to imagine a life more difficult than the one he already knows in Manshiyat Naser, the impoverished slum on the outskirts of Cairo where he lives among thousands of others of the city’s Christian garbage collectors.
Providing only his first name, Salah said Muslim thugs attacked the area in March 2011, after Christians there had protested the burning down of a church in another Cairo neighborhood a few days before.
He recounted that military forces on hand had watched as the thugs looted and torched Christian homes in the violence.
“Houses burned, and families were destroyed and nine Christians were killed and I don’t know how many were wounded,” Salah said of the event, which local and international Human Rights groups documented at the time.
Afraid ever since, he has stopped collecting garbage outside the neighborhood, and tries to live off what he can make selling locally the coat hangers he produces from scrap plastic. He also gets occasional help with food from a church in the neighborhood.
Salah said one of his relatives has applied “20 times” for permanent-resident status in the United States. He said he dreams of leaving too, but doesn’t think he’d be able. He is illiterate, he said, and raising his four young children alone, after his wife died giving birth three years ago.
“Many (Christians) want to leave,” Salah said, “but their possibilities are limited.” Source