Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt

In Egypt, Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination and harassment for centuries. Rather than being mitigated by the growing tolerance and interconnection of the global community, the jeopardy of Christians is increasing today, with mob attacks on churches and on individual Christians becoming more frequent. In February 2007, rumours that a Coptic Christian man was having an affair with a Muslim woman – a violation of Islamic law – led to a rampage that resulted in the destruction of several Christian-owned shops in southern Egypt.[11] And besides physical attacks, Christians have been restricted from speaking freely. In August 2007, two Coptic rights activists were Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt arrested for “publishing articles and declarations that are damaging to Islam and insulting to Prophet Mohammed on the United Copts web site.”[12]

Mistreatment of Christians in Egypt frequently meets with indifference – or worse yet, complicity -- from Egyptian authorities. In June 2007, rioters in Alexandria vandalised Christian shops, attacked and injured seven Christians, and damaged two Coptic churches. Police allowed the mob to roam free in Alexandria’s Christian quarter for an hour and a half before intervening. The Compass Direct News service, which tracks incidents of Christian persecution, noted: “In

April 2006, Alexandria was the scene of three knife attacks on churches that Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt killed one Christian and left a dozen more injured. The government appeared unable or unwilling to halt subsequent vandalism of Coptic-owned shops and churches...”[13]

The ordeal of Suhir Shihata Gouda exemplifies the experience of many Egyptian Christians, and principally of Christian women, who are frequently victimised by Muslim men.[14] According to the Jubilee Campaign, which records incidences of Christian persecution:

[A Christian woman named Suhir] was kidnapped on February 25th [1999] by a group of Muslims who forced her to marry a Muslim man, Saed Sadek Mahmoud. After Suhir failed to return home from school, her distraught Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt father rushed to Abu-Tisht police station to report the incident, but instead of assisting him, a police officer began assaulting Suhir’s father…beating and cursing him. Three days later, Suhir’s father and brother returned to the police station to ask for help and they were subjected to the same abuse, as a result of which the father had to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Suhir herself managed to escape, but was recaptured “and beaten for running away and is currently under heavy guard.” Her Muslim “husband” accompanied a mob to her father’s house where they threatened Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt to kill all the Christian

men in Suhir’s home village, and carry off all the women, if her family took legal action.[15]

Bishop Wissa of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church painted a grim picture in an interview with the Protestant organisation Prayer for the Persecuted Church in May 2000:

One man in his 20s was in the field working when he was approached by armed Muslims. He was asked to renounce Christianity and to verbally say the two statements of faith that would convert him to Islam. When he refused and did the sign of the cross, he was shot Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt in the head and killed. Another young man had a tattoo on his arm of St. George and the Virgin Mary. They also asked him to renounce his faith. When he refused, they cut off his arm that had the Christian tattoos and chopped it up. They finished him off with their daggers and then burned his body.

A 17-year-old boy, who is a deacon at the church, was going to look for his sister in the fields. He too was asked to renounce his faith, and when he refused, he was shot. After they killed Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt him, they asked the young girl to lay next to her brother and they killed her right there.

The Egyptian government, caught between the demands of Sharia and its secular laws, couldn’t entirely ignore these acts of murder. It compensated each of the families of these victims, albeit in a manner that only underscored the relatively cheapness of a Christian life: each family received eight hundred dollars. And this was only because of the notoriety of the cases. The families of other victims,

however, get neither recompense nor justice. One man’s son was on his way to school when Islamic Coptic Christians victimised in Egypt militants stopped the school bus on which he was riding and ordered the Christians to separate from the Muslims. They demanded that the boy renounce his faith. When he refused, says Bishop Wissa, “they killed him with an axe, and then they drove over his body with their car.” Authorities called the death a vehicular accident, and denied the father compensation — just as they did previously when Muslim militants destroyed his shop.[16]

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