Muslim families help their Christian neighbors in face of new wave of violence
A body chaired by the Grand Mufti of Egypt responsible for disseminating guidance in religious disputes has issued a statement condemning the recent murders, saying the orchestrated campaign by jihadist groups aims at explicitly sabotaging national unity.
Known as the House of Fatwa (Dar al Ifta al Misryah), the authority issued its statement Monday, as news surfaced that another Coptic Christian in northern Sinai was murdered.
An escalation of violence against Copts over the past couple of months, culminating in the most recent murders of seven Christians in Al-Arish, has resulted in the displacement of hundreds from their generations-old homes in North Sinai.
Al-Nur, the ultra-conservative Salafi Party, also condemned the killings, stressing that they “go against the teachings of Islam.”
Some of the recent killings include:
- A 40-year-old Coptic man, found dead in his home in the Northern Sinai town of Al-Arish, with a gunshot to the neck, on February 23. His home had been set on fire.
- On February 22, authorities found the bullet-riddled body of a Christian about 65. His son was burned alive.
- On February 12, masked motorcyclists gunned down a Christian veterinarian while he was at the wheel of his own car.
- In late January, a 35-year-old Christian officer was killed.
When the killings of Christians in Sinai began, the Islamic State group released a video message in which they claimed a new campaign of targeted violence against the Copts, defined by jihadists as “their favorite prey,” Fides news service reported. The video message shows the young suicide bomber who blew himself up on December 11 in St. Peter’s Church, adjacent to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, killing 29 persons.
Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail spoke by telephone about the urgency to protect Christians in the region from new attacks.
The news has also been concerning to the Coptic diaspora. Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said on Tuesday that he’s prepared a statement but has had to update it each time a “new and often more horrifying attack” occurs.
“In the past three months alone, 40 Coptic Christians have been murdered in targeted attacks in Egypt,” Bishop Angaelos said. “From the terrorist bombing on St Peter’s Coptic Church in Cairo that claimed the lives of 29 mainly women and children to the murders of individuals across the country since, the one common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians.
“Incitement by terrorist groups that calls for the killing of Christians in Egypt has spiraled over the past weeks to the extent that lists of churches and individuals have now been released as desirable targets,” the bishop added.
He noted that in some villages, flyers are distributed urging Christians to “leave or die.”
“Similar events have tragically occurred far too often over the past years, and there is unfortunately little deterrent to prevent them from reoccurring,” he lamented.
“There were many killings and threats of further violence,” Father Kirollos Ibrahim at the Coptic Church of Ismailia, which has aided the displaced from Al-Arish, told the Los Angeles Times. “God has helped us, and we are finding brothers and sisters to stand by us.”
Some of those helping are the Copts’ Muslim neighbors, who have hid the Christians in their homes or helped them find other shelter, according to the Times:
“I was too scared to sleep, and spent the night at my Muslim friends,” said a homemaker who asked to be identified only by her nickname, Um Mina, or mother of Mina, because she was afraid of being targeted for further violence.
“They insisted — they said, ‘We’ll take you in; anything that happens to you happens to us.’”