Egypt was plunged into instability following the removal of President Muhammad Mubarak after a series of “Arab Spring” protests in early 2011. As a secular president, Mubarak had been a key ally of the United States in keeping Muslim extremism at bay and protecting the ancient Christian population throughout Egypt.
ARAB SPRING TURNS TO WINTER
The American-supported uprisings culminated in the establishment of a new democratically elected government in June 2012. The new president, President Mohamed Morsi, took power amid hopes of reform and freedom. However, he quickly began to abandon democracy and leading the country towards Sharia law. He was the Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood and was accused of concentrating power in their hands. In November 2012, President Morsi passed an interim constitutional declaration granting unlimited power to himself, and also a new constitution that had strong Islamist leanings.
President Morsi’s power was undermined in the beginning of 2013. The army deployed troops and suspended the constitution, leading to a state of emergency in August. At this time the persecution of Christians peaked as many radical Muslims sought revenge for the removal of their beloved Morsi, using the chaos as an opportunity to unleash terror against believers. Thirty-eight churches were burned and many more were damaged. Christians were even murdered on the streets in broad daylight while the police did little or nothing to stop it.
In one typical event, radical Muslims broke into a Christian school in Bani Suef, looting the establishment and replacing the cross on the gate with an al-Qaeda flag. Female Christian workers who tried to escape were sexually assaulted.
In February this year Arabic media reported the murder of a Syrian Christian family who were living in Alexandria. The attackers stabbed to death a 44-year-old man, his 35-year-old wife, their six-year-old son and the wife’s brother.
In another incident, reported by CNS news in April this year, a young Coptic Christian woman, Mary Sameh George, was killed while driving through the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams to deliver medicine to an elderly woman. After Muslim bystanders spotted a cross hanging in her car, they dragged Mary out of her vehicle and proceeded to maul and beat her, before finally stabbing her to death.
FORCED CONVERSIONS AND MARRIAGES
During this time the kidnapping of Christian girls reached crisis proportions. There have been over 550 cases of kidnapping reported in the past 3 years. Some of the kidnappings lead to ransom requests, but others appear to be for the express purpose of forcing Christian girls into conversion to Islam and/or forced marriage.
The Egyptian Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance says many Christian girls and women are being kidnapped by Muslim men and forced to convert and marry their captors.
Their report said: “The victims are often subjected to violence and rape. The problem dates back to before the revolution but has increased dramatically since. Pre-2011, five or six girls would go missing each month, but this figure has increased nearly three-fold. The revolution and subsequent security breakdown emboldened Islamic extremists, who previously had been kept on a tight leash by strongman president Hosni Mubarak. The electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the Arab Spring gave them further confidence.”
Pressing Christian girls into Muslim marriages is a way to systematically reduce the population of the Coptic community. These kidnappings have been largely unreported and demonstrate that, despite reduction in public persecution, Christians in Egypt remain in great danger. The Egyptian police have largely turned a blind eye to this problem, which means that Christian families in Egypt live in continual fear.
In June this year, Fox News reported on one such kidnapping case:
Fifteen-year-old Amira Hafez Wahim slipped out of the Christian church in Luxor, Egypt, where she had attended services with her mother in February, promising to dash to a nearby store and return quickly.
Five months later, she has not been seen since, although her parents immediately suspected a 28-year-old Muslim man named Yasser Mahmoud, who had tried to kidnap her before, had succeeded this time. When her father went to the Civil Status Authority for a copy of her birth certificate, his fears were confirmed. Her name had been changed and she was now listed as Muslim. She had been told that ‘apostatising’ is punishable by death.
Egypt was run by martial law until June 2014 when President Sisi, former head of the Egyptian army, was sworn into office. President Sisi has cracked down on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and brought relative stability to the area. President Sisi has even allotted government funds to enable the rebuilding of the churches that were burned.
But as recently as 4th September the Christian Post reported:
‘Not only are the churches, monasteries, and institutions of Egypt’s Christians under attack by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters – nearly 100 now have been torched, destroyed, ransacked, etc. – but Christians themselves are under attack all throughout Egypt, with practically zero coverage in Western media.
‘Days ago, for example, Copts held a funeral for Wahid Jacob, a young Christian deacon who used to serve in St. John the Baptist Church, part of the Qusiya diocese in Asyut, Egypt. He was kidnapped on August 21 by “unknown persons” who demanded an exorbitant ransom from his impoverished family – 1,200,000 Egyptian pounds (equivalent to $171,000 USD). Because his family could not raise the sum, he was executed-his body dumped in a field where it was later found. The priest who conducted his funeral service said that the youth’s body bore signs of severe torture.’