Friday, November 22, 2013

Egypt’s Christians plagued by kidnapping scourge

A Coptic demonstration in EgyptMorsi’s arrest and the clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has led to an increase in the number of attacks against Coptic Christians who have become an easy target for radical Islamists in search of a defenceless scapegoat. 

Over the past months about 80 churches have been attacked and often set ablaze  before police were able to take charge of the situation.

The region that has been hit by Islamist violence the hardest is Minya in Upper Egypt, home to a large Coptic Christian minority. 

According to local sources, at least twenty churches, schools and other Christian institutions have been attacked and set alight. 

Even orphanages have been attacked, looted and burnt by radical Islamists in an attempt to wipe out the Christian presence in the area. 

The Tadros e-Shabti Church is a case in point. Morsi’s supporters have targeted two homes for disabled children located near the parish church. After stealing the offerings and the children’s clothes and toys, they set fire to the buildings, creating a blaze that lasted over five hours.

There were also Copts among the victims and the attacks prevented liturgies from being celebrated. For the first time in 1600 years, the Monastery of the Virgin Mary - which radicals tried to set fire to - did not celebrate the customary liturgies one Sunday. 

The Evangelical church in the village of Bedin is just one case of a Christian building being forcibly transformed into a mosque.

Associated Press reported that after Islamists set fire to a Franciscan school, they made three nuns march through the streets like prisoners of war, before a Muslim woman offered them shelter. Two other women who were working at the school were attacked and molested as they tried to escape through the crowds.

The Copts and other Christian minorities are baffled by the support which media across English speaking and Western countries in general have been showing the Muslim Brotherhood. The Coptic Church criticised “the false presentation of the facts by Western media” and has asked for the “actions of bloodthirsty radical organisations” to be examined “instead of legitimising them by offering them global support and political protection as they try to spread chaos and destruction across our beloved land.” The Coptic Church also called for the facts to be presented in an “accurate and truthful manner.”

But there is now another form of violence adding to and sometimes mixed in with anti-Christian Islamic political violence: ransom kidnappings. Since the start of the “Arab Spring” revolts, almost a hundred Christians have been kidnapped in Upper Egypt and released after families paid a ransom.

Minya province has yet again been the main centre of these kidnappings. More than eighty people – all of them Copts – have been abducted in the region. Victims, human rights activists and Church figures are accusing the authorities, especially the police, of doing little or nothing to curb this dramatic phenomenon.

Bishop Makarios, Minya's highest Coptic spiritual leader, felt obliged to make a public declaration: “Although some Muslims say the Church should not get involved in political affairs and should not interfere because it is not our place to, the truth is, that the State is not fulfiling its duty, members of the Church are suffering and are pressing the Church to intervene. If teh State did its job, no one would say anything.”
Minya is already called the “kidnapping capital. And since Christian doctors and pharmacists have become kidnappers’ favourite target, some rural communities have found themselves withour medical assistance. 

Indeed, doctors are afraid to venture out into desert streets that are far out fromt he city as this is where the risk of ambushes is highest. This type of crime has become more and more frequent since Morsi’s ousting, a clear sign that it is linked to the current political situation in the country.

No comments: