Home » Posts tagged 'Coptic'
Tag Archives: Coptic
The kidnapping, sexual abuse, and forced conversion of Christian women and girls in Egypt—a “particularly vulnerable group to exploitation” that is quietly living an “unimaginable nightmare”—is rampant with no signs of abatement. This is the finding of a report published on September 10, 2020 by Coptic Solidary (CS), an international organization based in Washington D.C., that works to promote equal citizenship rights for Egypt’s Christian minority.
In its 15-page report, titled “‘Jihad of the Womb’: Trafficking of Coptic Women & Girls in Egypt,” CS documents “the widespread practice of abduction and trafficking” and estimates that there have been “about 500 cases within the last decade, where elements of coercion were used that amount to trafficking,” according to the UN’s own definitions, particularly per its “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children.”
According to CS:
The capture and disappearance of Coptic women and minor girls is a bane of the Coptic community in Egypt, yet little has been done to address this scourge by the Egyptian or foreign governments, NGOs, or international bodies. According to a priest in the Minya Governorate, at least 15 girls go missing every year in his area alone. His own daughter was nearly kidnapped had he not been able to intervene in time.
The report offers 13 separate case studies. Victims range from teenage girls, to newly-wed and pregnant young women, to married women with children. Most of the 500 disappeared in one of two ways: either they were publicly kidnapped, often by being forced into a car while traveling to school, church, or work; or—and this is especially true for teenage girls—they were lured into relationships with young Muslim men who promised them the world, until, that is, it was too late.
According to a former Egyptian trafficker, “one of the strategies they used to gain the girls’ trust was for the kidnapper, a Muslim man, to tell the Christian girl he loved her and wanted to convert to Christianity for her. They start a romantic relationship until, one day, they decide to ‘escape’ together. What the girls don’t know is that they are actually being kidnapped. Most of the time they will not marry their kidnapper, but someone else.”
The same repentant trafficker shared another story: “I remember a Coptic Christian girl from a rich, well-known family in Minya. She was kidnapped by five Muslim men. They held her in a house, stripped her and filmed her naked. In the video, one of them also undressed. They threatened to make the video public if the girl wouldn’t marry him.” He continues:
Salafist networks began in the seventies and it’s reached its highest levels now, in the era of President Sisi… A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christians’ houses and monitor everything that’s going on. On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around [the girls]…. The kidnappers receive large amounts of money. Police can help them in different ways, and when they do, they might also receive a part of the financial reward the kidnappers are paid by the Islamisation organisations. In some cases, police provide the kidnappers with drugs they seize. The drugs are then given to the girls to weaken their resistance as they put them under pressure. I even know of cases in which police offered help to beat up the girls to make them recite the Islamic creed. And the value of the reward increases whenever the girl has a position. For example, when she is the daughter of a priest or comes from a well-known family…. The Salafist group I knew rented apartments in different areas of Egypt to hide kidnapped Coptic. There, they put them under pressure and threaten them to convert to Islam. And once they reach the legal age, a specially arranged Islamic representative comes in to make the conversion official, issue a certificate and accordingly they change their ID…. If all goes to plan, the girls are also forced into marriage with a strict Muslim. Their husbands don’t love them, they just marry her to make her a Muslim. She will be hit and humiliated. And if she tries to escape, or convert back to her original religion, she will be killed.
Other tactics “include utilizing or planting Muslim female neighbors, colleagues, coworkers or friends to invite Coptic women to their home or travel across town during which time they are kidnapped by the groups who organized with the known female.”
Unfortunately, these kidnapping “networks are often supported by like-minded members (including high-ranking officials) of the police, national security and local administrations,” adds the report. “Their roles include refusal to lodge official complaints by the victims’ families, falsifying police investigations, organizing the formal sessions of conversion to Islam at Al-Azhar, or harassing families into silence and acceptance of the de facto trafficking of their loved ones.”
Why so many officials help in the abduction and forced conversion of Christian girls and women—or at the very least look the other way—“can be traced back to the second article of the Egyptian Constitution.” Its states that “Islam is the religion of the State and Arabic is its official language. The principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.”
While there is no formal apostasy law in the Egyptian judiciary system, “as a matter of fact, it is prohibited for anyone wishing to convert away from Islam,” notes the report. Meanwhile, “conversion to Islam is always accepted and encouraged” without any fuss. “Based on shari‘a law,” then, the “obvious problem for kidnapped Coptic women and girls who are forcibly converted is that they are nearly always denied the autonomy to choose their faith or to return to their faith once forcibly converted.”
Such sharia stipulations undermine parental guidance of minors in other ways: Although Egyptian minors (aged 18 or under) cannot marry without parental consent, “a minor is allowed to formally convert to Islam, after which another (Muslim) custodian is assigned to approve a marriage. This effectively allows Muslim men to strip Copts of their parental rights and Coptic girls of their constitutional protections…”
Moreover, if a married Christian woman “converts to Islam, courts immediately annul her existing marriage (unless the husband agrees to convert likewise) and the woman becomes free to marry a Muslim man. (Needless to say, a vice versa scenario—a married Muslim woman trying to convert and marry a Coptic man—in no way invalidates her Muslim marriage.)”
Whenever asked or put on the spot regarding the abduction or disappearance of Christian girls, the government’s response, to quote Laila Baha’ Eldin, Assistant Foreign Minister for Human Rights of Egypt, is that “All reported cases of abduction had been investigated…. In most cases, it was about young women falling in love with someone from a different denomination.”
But as the report explains, “this defense … does not acknowledge or protect the ongoing rights of Coptic females”:
Regardless if a women is kidnapped from her home or in public, or if she agrees to elope and then discovers she has been tricked and wishes to leave, the elements of trafficking in persons and crimes against children are all still applicable. A woman in Egypt should have the right at any time to seek safety, have the right of movement, right of freedom of conscience and belief, and the right to change her views during her lifetime.
According to its mission statement, Coptic Solidarity works “to achieve equal citizenship for the Copts in Egypt.” Since its establishment in 2010, CS has been at the forefront of reporting and advocating for Egypt’s trafficked Christian women and girls. In 2011, its president, Caroline Doss, testified at a Congressional hearing titled “Minority at Risk: Coptic Christians in Egypt” (broadcast by and available on C-SPAN)
Perhaps the most salient paragraph of its report follows:
The rampant trafficking of Coptic women and girls is a direct violation of their most basic rights to safety, freedom of movement, and freedom of conscience and belief. The crimes committed against these women must be urgently addressed by the Egyptian government, ending impunity for kidnappers, their accomplices, and police who refuse to perform their duties. Women who disappear and are never recovered must live an unimaginable nightmare. The large majority of these women are never reunited with their families or friends because police response in Egypt is dismissive and corrupt. There are countless families who report that police have either been complicit in the kidnapping or at the very least bribed into silence. If there is any hope for Coptic women in Egypt to have a merely ‘primitive’ level of equality, these incidents of trafficking must cease, and the perpetrators must be held accountable by the judiciary.
As Coptic Christians celebrate Christian, the Interior Minister has moved police into position to give them and their churches protection. “If police confirm there is a presence of any terrorist elements, they will use live rounds,” an Interior Ministry official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
When Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was elected, Christians became the targets of violence. It escalated in June during the Revolution to remove him from power. In August and after the Military had ousted Morsi, Islamists unleashed their fury on the Christians and over 80 churches were attacked with many of them burned to the ground. Christians homes and shops were also destroyed.
Pope Tawadros accused Morsi of neglecting the Coptic community. The ousted president’s relation with the church was strained. Tawadros had supported Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s overthrow of Morsi, and appeared with others when the general announced Morsi’s removal.
Egypt Daily News reports that Copts interviewed this week stood by their decision to support the massive protests demanding the ousteing of Morsi, who many Christians feared was trying to transform Egypt into an Islamic state.
“I don’t regret supporting the military against Morsi, whatever the price I have to pay,” Ibrahim George, 37, told AFP at his cramped apartment on the outskirts of Cairo.
Four members of his family, including his mother, were gunned down on October 20 outside the Church of the Virgin in Cairo’s working class neighbourhood of Al-Warrak as they stepped out of a wedding party. The victims also included two young daughters of his cousins.
“I received a call that the church was attacked. I first thought someone was kidding,” he said, choking up as he described the aftermath of the night-time shooting.
“When I rushed there, I saw a massacre and my mother covered in a blanket soaked with blood. I was devastated,” he said.
The attitude against Christians by Islamists has increased. Government authorities are now on alert for new attacks.
“The church did not bar Copts from participating in the June 30 protests against Morsi,” said priest Daoud Ibrahim of the Al-Warrak church, referring to the massive demonstrations in Cairo demanding his resignation.
“We are now paying the price of this decision…. but we don’t regret it. We are not scared. The doors of my church are open to all,” said the priest, stroking his long white beard as worshippers greeted him, while nearly a dozen policemen guarded the building.
CP reported Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour visited Coptic pope Tawadros II on Sunday, the first such meeting in 40 years. While the meeting was aimed at reassuring Christians that the new government will be better than the Muslim Brotherhood, a watchdog group has warned that it remains to be seen whether this move will benefit Christians, or if it will lead to new attacks instead.
The visit “reflected the state’s appreciation for the great patriotic role they (Egypt’s Copts) played in countering attempts to sow seeds of division among Egyptians”, the presidency said in a statement.
Egypt’s Christians rang in the new year Wednesday with prayers for peace after the long period of unrest.
Article may be reprinted with credit to VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED.
Copts in the village of Tarshoub, Beni Suef, Upper Egypt, are experiencing intimidation after extremists attacked them on Monday. Aggressors threw stones at Coptic homes, burned a tuk-tuk truck owned by a Copt named Magdy Fathi Rizk and a store owned by Badr Maher.
They also destroyed the fronts of some houses and called for the closure of the church, which dates back more than 40 years in the village.
Father Malak Shehata from the Fashn Diocese told Mideast Christian News that the village of Tarshoub has been served by Father Andrawis, who moved to serve in another location. When the Fashn Diocese delegated a new priest to serve in the village and Copts tried to prepare a residence for him in the church, some Muslims gathered and refused to let the priest enter the church. This was led by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the village.
During a reconciliation meeting held yesterday to resolve the situation, the Brotherhood members mobilized the villagers to attack the homes of Christians and prevented the priest from entering the village. They closed the church and Copts could not practice their prayers.
A witness from the village said that they had prayed in the church for many years and there was no problem with their Muslim neighbors until a new priest was ordained. When Copts started to furnish a residence for the priest in the church, a Brotherhood-associate named Ramadan Wahballah mobilized his supporters to reject the reconciliation meeting, which was held to resolve the situation.
They chanted against Copts during the meeting and began to throw stones and Molotov cocktails at the Coptic houses, disrupting the meeting. Copts were forced to close the church and the priest has returned to the Fashn Diocese until the crisis is resolved.
The witness added that they are getting close to the New Year celebrations and Christmas, and yet they are not able to open the church. He noted that security authorities have not arrested the aggressors, while Copts were forced to close the church for fear of more attacks, especially in light of continued incitement by the Muslim Brotherhood.
An Islamic terror campaign against Christians in Egypt should be headline-grabbing news. Not so. Few media outlets are focusing on the story behind the story in Egypt — a calculated assault against Egypt’s ancient Christian community.
In recent weeks, the violence in Egypt –fueled by hate-filled radical Muslims — has resulted in the murder of Coptic Christians and the destruction of dozens of churches. Radical Islamists have even paraded Christian nuns through the streets like prisoners of war.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-American, anti-Israel terrorist group, put red paint on Christian homes and businesses — marking them as targets.
The attacks are so unrelenting that even one Egyptian church, which has been open for 1,600 years, had to close its doors — cancelling services for the first time ever — because of the violence.
The assault on Christians is not confined to Egypt. We see it in our work in Pakistan, where Christians are also singled out and face grave dangers because of their faith.
And, just this week, an American citizen experienced religious persecution first-hand when a court in Iran rejected his appeal. Christian pastor Saeed Abedini faces eight years in prison. He’s been imprisoned now for nearly one year, subjected to beatings and torture, simply because of his Christian faith.
The disturbing decision by Iran’s judiciary violates the universally-respected principles of protecting human rights and religious freedom. And, the decision seems to indicate that it is business as usual Iran — even under the new President Hassan Rohani.
In fact, one of the judges who rejected the appeal, Judge Ahmad Zargar, was sanctioned by the European Union for issuing long-term sentences and the death penalty against peaceful protestors.
At the American Center for Law and Justice we represent Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two young children. The family lives here in the United States.
The latest news out of Iran is devastating for Saeed family and raises two even more important questions: Why is the Obama administration largely silent on this topic? Why isn’t President Obama forcefully speaking out, condemning this assault on Christians?
Let’s go back to Egypt for a moment. As the anti-Christian violence there escalates, President Obama has said very little about the slaughter.
Here’s what he said just days ago: “We believe that … the rights of … religious minorities should be respected . . . .”
Where’s the outrage? Where’s the condemnation?
(AINA) — The escalation of Muslim attacks on Christian churches in Egypt continues unabated. This week two attacks were carried out, one in Alexandria and one in Menbal in Upper Egypt — both allegedly prompted by harassment of Muslim women. Yesterday the church of St. Mary, in the Dakhela district, west of Alexandria, was attacked by Molotov cocktails and bricks, causing the gate to burn and the breaking of most of the stained glass windows. One Copt was killed and several injured.
According to the official police explanation, the Copt Basem Ramzy Michael was seen by the Muslim Hamada Alloshy, a registered criminal, allegedly extending his body from his balcony to gaze at the flat of Alloshy’s sister, who lives on the ground floor. A quarrel broke out and when the church was attacked, hundreds of Copts hurried to the area to defend the church, among whom was 36-year-old Sedky Sherif, a father of three children. According to his nephew Rabah, who was with him at the time of his death, 1000 Copts were present and were attacked by over 20,000 Muslims, who were firing bird shots at them and throwing bricks. While the church was being attacked the Muslims were shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Security forces were sent out to diffuse the situation and disperse the crowd. They made several arrests on both sides.
According to the Security report, the Copt “died of fright,” suffering a heart attack after hearing the sound of gun fire. According to his family and those who saw him, his body was full of bruises and marks from bird shots.
The family and relatives of Sedky Sherif waited this morning at Kom el Dekka morgue to receive his body and the results of the autopsy. A death certificate was issued quoting cause of death as “under investigation.” Weesa Fawzy from Al-Kalema Human Rights Center said that this was the first time that a death certificate is issued and the cause of death is still under investigation. “Has he been seen by the forensics team or not, so how are they still investigating when the body is already buried?”
Coptic Mina Milad Saber, 19 years, was severely injured in yesterday’s attack and underwent brain surgery, but this morning he was found shackled to his bed by the police for fear he might escape, although he is still in a coma.
On May 13, in the village of Menbal, district of Matay, north of Minya province, a Muslim mob stormed the village church of Prince Tadros el-Mashreki and assaulted a person inside. They hurled stones and broke everything inside the church, including doors and windows. The mob then went along the streets looting and destroying all Coptic-owned businesses and pharmacies and torching cars. The Copts were also threatened to be expelled from the village. According to witnesses, any Copt who was met by the mob in the street was beaten up.
Attorney Dr. Ehab Ramzy, former MP, said that Menbal has a Muslim majority while Manshiet Menbal, 10 kilometers away, has a Coptic majority. In the afternoon of that day three Muslim youths went to Manshiet Menbal and harassed Coptic girls as they came out of church. “As they drove by, the Muslims threw plastic bags filled with urine at the girls,” Ramzy said. “The Coptic youth defended the girls and, being outnumbered, the Muslims left.” A couple of hours later Muslims congregated and attacked the church and the Coptic minority in village of Menbal.
“The two villages have nothing to do with each other, and Copts in Menbal have nothing at all to do with the quarrel that took place in Manshiet Menbal. They were attacked just because they are Christians,” said Ramzy. Two Muslims were arrested from Menbal, and there is talk of a “reconciliation” meeting to be held. “Now security are looking for Christians to arrest them as a bargaining chip for this forthcoming “reconciliation” meeting,” said Dr Ramzy.
By Mary Abdelmassih
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem on Sunday released a joint statement denouncing attacks by Israeli police officers on worshipers and pilgrims during Holy Saturday at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
Signatories of the statement highlighted that they saw “awful scenes of the brutal treatment to clerics, average people and pilgrims in Jerusalem during Holy Saturday.”
They added: “A day of joy was turned into a day of severe sadness and pain for several of our faithful brothers who were mistreated by a number of Israeli police officers at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”
It is unacceptable, according to the statement, that clergymen and average people “get beaten brutally and indiscriminately and be denied access to their churches under the pretext of keeping order.”
The statement urged the Israeli government to denounce the violence that police practiced against worshipers and clergymen.
The patriarchs and heads of churches also denied claims of those who blamed the churches for what happened during the Holy week in Jerusalem. “These claims are counter to what happened in reality, and all heads of churches condemn the Israeli procedures and violations of the Christians’ rights,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by heads of all recognized churches in the Holy Land including the Roman Orthodox Church, the Latin Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Custodian of the Holy Land, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Armenian Catholic Church.
Israel on Thursday officially apologized to Egypt after Israeli police officers attacked Egyptian diplomats and a Coptic clergyman at a church in Jerusalem.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador in Cairo after the attack during Orthodox Easter celebrations at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Israel Broadcasting Authority said.
Israeli police say they were not notified of the attack but that they will investigate immediately, the IBA reported.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Roshdy told Egypt’s daily Al-Ahram that Israeli authorities tried to stop Egyptian diplomatic officials from attending Coptic Easter mass.
Mohamed Abu Samra, secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad Party, made the claim that “it is permissible to kill some Christians today,” then gave his argument defending such a position.
He justified this announcement by saying: “Those who came out with weapons, their blood is allowed for us to spill, as a fighter is not considered dhimmi.”
Dhimma is the Islamic law that specifies non-Muslims are to be protected residents within the Islamic state in exchange for taxes.
“In the recent funeral, the Christians brought the Qur’an and urinated on it. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar did not deny it. They also came out in demonstrations to destroy Muslim places, chanting ‘We’ll bring Islam down by any means possible,” Samra said during an interview with Egyptian newspaper Al-Watan on Wednesday.
“Jihad gagged the new pope, as we told him in a statement ‘your seclusion will not terrorize us.’ If you want civil war, we will welcome it as you were the ones who started it,” Samra said.
“I believe that Pope Tawadros is more dangerous than Shenouda, because the former considers using force as he is trying to establish a Coptic state. He considers the arrival of the Islamists an opportunity to declare civil war,” Samra continued. “I believe that offering concessions to this person will make him continue on the path, which he charted, but the end will not be as he expects. Egypt is not like Lebanon or Southeast Asia, and national unity is a fact here.”
“What Tawadros is doing is a far cry from what the Coptic people want,” he added.
Samra stated to the newspaper that the Church stands behind the organization “Black Bloc,” and that the “Tayyiban Battalion,” which he claimed was formed under the late Pope Shenouda III under the cover of scouting, was trained in Lebanon and participated in the Lebanese civil war.
H.H Pope Tawadros II has not responded to such accusations. As for the claims of the Church supporting Black Bloc or its origins, there is no evidence for such and the scouting groups of the Church are responsible for church organization during prayers and did not receive any training in Lebanon.
“I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—
brother will fight against brother,
neighbor against neighbor,
city against city,
kingdom against kingdom.
3 The Egyptians will lose heart,
and I will bring their plans to nothing;
they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,
the mediums and the spiritists.
4 I will hand the Egyptians over
to the power of a cruel master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
(AINA) reports- A deadline given by a Muslim family, with support of most Muslims in the area, to all of the Christian Coptic inhabitants of the town of El-Wasta, 90 kilometers south of Cairo, expired today. The Muslim family had given an ultimatum regarding a Muslim girl who disappeared at the end of February, and threatened violent reprisal if the girl was not returned by today.
Fliers were distributed yesterday throughout the town by Muslims, who vowed violence. Muslims visited Coptic businesses and warned them not to open today otherwise they would be torched. Today Copts disregarded this ultimatum and opened their businesses as usual.
Rana Shazli, a 21-year-old Faculty of Arts student, disappeared from home at the end of February. Her father accused the church of converting her to Christianity, marrying her to Ebram Zaki Andrawes and facilitating their travel abroad. The church has denied any involvement in the affair (AINA 3-22-2013).
Copts are currently living in terror, saying they take the ultimatum very seriously and expect the worst tomorrow after Friday prayers. The church and Coptic homes stoned by Muslims demonstrators on March 21 and the priest’s car was torched. The demonstrators vowed to torch all churches. Copts were forced to close their shops until a meeting took place on March 25 between Muslims and Christians, which extended the deadline for returning Rana to April 25.
Muslims insist that Ebram and his cousin Peter went to the ATM machine of Rana’s bank and withdrew 17,000 Egyptian pounds, saying he is shown by the bank’s security cameras.
Failing to find Ebram, a judge in Beba town court decided two weeks ago to imprison his father Zaki Tawfiq Andrawes, his mother Soraya and his cousin Peter, pending an investigation on charges of incitement to kidnap the Muslim girl, the seizure of funds, assistance to convert her to Christianity, contempt of the Islamic religion, to facilitate their travel to Turkey and hide information on their son Abram.
The Facebook page of ‘El-Wasta Online’ ( https://www.facebook.com/Elwas6a) issued today a call to all Muslims in the area to congregate for Friday prayers in the Al-Tahrir mosque adjacent to St. George’s Church.
Rana recently sent a new letter to her family in which she denies that she eloped with a young Copt. She affirmed that she is still a Muslim and is married to a Muslim man.
Kamal Suleiman, member of the Egyptian Shura Council, presented two days ago an Urgent Request and Discussion signed by more than twenty members about a new outbreak of sectarian strife in Beni Suef. The statement warned of bloody events in city of El-Wasta between Christians and Muslims, due to the disappearance of a Muslim girl and rumors about a Copt being responsible for her disappearance. The statement went on to say that the people of El-Wasta forced Coptic families to close their shops for more than a week and then allowed them to resume their activity while giving them a one-month deadline for the missing girl to return, else violence and killings would occur. The Copts, he said, have nothing to do with this case.
The statement criticized the inaction of the Security Directorate despite knowing about the gravity of the situation.
Hatem el Shazly, Rana’s father, accused Father Mattias Fanous of St. Georges Church of being responsible for evangelizing, marriage and disappearance of his daughter and smuggling the couple to Istanbul, pointing out that this information is certain because he found it in his daughter’s papers, including the priest’s telephone number, Christian prayer and some hymns, as well as mantra and talismans, which mullahs and sheikhs “confirmed were black magic to control the will of the girl.” He also told Al Fagr newspaper today that Rana told her sister that she drank a glass of water at church and the priest sprayed water on her face and that she had changed ever since, and is not aware of her actions.
Surprisingly the father also said that he received a phone call from his daughter warning him of targeting the church. She said “the Christians have nothing to do with it and beware of touching any Christian,” reported al-Fagr He added that his daughter told him she is married to a Muslim named Ahmed, is living in Cairo and she has not left Egypt and will return home after getting her marriage certificate.
This evening there were reports of increased security in El-Wasta, around the church and in the streets. “It is no good if they are present and being passive and just stand there watching as they always do,” said Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub. “All of Egypt will watch their performance tomorrow after Friday prayers.”
By Mary Abdelmassih