Egypt: ISIS Terrorizes Coptic Christians In Sinai

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI ARABIAN NEWSPAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

Egypt: ISIS Terrorizes Coptic Christians in Sinai

ISIS

Cairo- Ismailia Militants taking part in the Egypt-based offshoot of ISIS, located in the Sinai Peninsula, have taken their brutality to the streets of civilian neighborhoods in the city of al Arish, eye witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat.

ISIS hardliners destroyed monitoring cameras and carried out vandalism against commercial shops, handing down leaflets reading that a local minority of Christian Coptic people will be facing exile soon.

Christian families fled most of Arish areas as violence attacks increasingly targeted the Coptic minority. Neighboring city of Ismailia, west of Arish, welcomed escapees fleeing ISIS brutality.

Over the course of three weeks at least eight Christians were killed in Egyptian city with their homes burnet to the ground, an act that forced dozens to flee the area.

Reuters reporter saw 25 families gathered with their belongings in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia’s Evangelical Church and church officials said 100 families, out of around 160 in North Sinai, were fleeing. More than 200 students studying in Arish, the province’s capital, have also left.

Seven Christians have been killed in Arish between Jan. 30 and Thursday. ISIS, which is waging an insurgency there, claimed responsibility for the killings, five of which were shootings. One man was beheaded and another set on fire.

Sectarian attacks occur often in Egypt but are usually confined to home burning, crop razing, attacks on churches, and forced displacement.

Arish residents said militants circulated death lists online and on the streets, warning Christians to leave or die.

The Coptic Orthodox Church denounced “the recurring terrorist incidents in North Sinai targeting Christian citizens” in a statement on Friday.

‘The Crescent Must be Above the Cross’: Muslim Persecution of Christians 2016

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CREEPING SHARIA’S WEBSITE)

‘The Crescent Must be Above the Cross’: Muslim Persecution of Christians 2016

Source: ‘The Crescent Must be Above the Cross’: Muslim Persecution of Christians: September, 2016 – Raymond Ibrahim

by Raymond Ibrahim

In September 2016, a group of escaped ISIS sex slaves finally revealed the true fate of Kayla Mueller  — the 26-year-old American aid worker in Syria whom ISIS had reported dead more than a year ago. Her former fellow captives said Mueller had “refused to deny Jesus Christ despite being repeatedly raped and tortured.” In February 2015, ISIS claimed their captive had been killed during a Jordanian airstrike and sent photos of her dead body in a white burial shroud, apparently as a sign of respect. One former sex slave said that Mueller “put others before herself,” and once even refused a chance to escape with the other girls because she thought her American appearance would stand out and endanger the others.

An ISIS-related plot to butcher Christians with chainsaws in a Belgian shopping center was exposed in September after authorities interrogated a Muslim youth. The teen—and son of a man being described as a “radical imam”—was arrested for calling for the execution of Christians while walking down a street.  Theo Francken, a Belgian official, said, “I already signed the order to remove the Imam from Belgian soil. But he appealed the decision, so I can only hope for a quick sentence. Clearly radicalism runs in the family.”

Speaking for the first time about the slaughter of the 86-year-old French priest Jacques Hamel, eyewitness Guy Coponet—who was himself stabbed several times, including in the neck, and was not expected to survive—revealed how the jihadi murderers also forced him to hold a camera and record them slitting the throat of the elderly priest: “They even checked the quality of the image and that I wasn’t trembling too much. I had to film the assassination of my friend Father Jacques!” He said the assailants planned on using the video as propaganda, “which would allow them to earn their fame as a ‘martyr’ of Allah.”

Meanwhile, Hungary became the first government in Europe to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe. Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Human Resources, said, “Today, Christianity has become the most persecuted religion, where out of five people killed [for] religious reasons, four… are Christians. In 81 countries around the world, Christians are persecuted, and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies.” This move came weeks after Prime Minister Victor Orban drew criticism in the EU by saying, “If we really want to help, we should help where the real problem is…. We should first help the Christian people before Islamic people.”

Around the same time—and despite the many instances of Muslim migrants raping, murdering, and terrorizing Europeans—Pope Francis urged Europeans to take in more Muslim refugees, including into their homes. He explained that the best way to combat terrorism is by warmly welcoming migrants and helping them integrate into the “European context.”

The rest of the bloody month of September’s worldwide Muslim persecution of Christians includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Violence, Prison, and Death for Christian “Blasphemers” and “Apostates”

Jordan: Nahed Hattar, a Christian writer and activist, was killed on September 25 outside of a courthouse in Amman. The 56-year-old man was earlier arrested for sharing a “blasphemous” cartoon about the prophet Muhammad. As he was walking into court to stand trial for “contempt of religion” and “inciting sectarian strife,” a man dressed in traditional Muslim garb shot him dead.  The report adds: “Approximately 70 percent of Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa have blasphemy laws that make it illegal to criticize or dishonor religious symbols and teachings. In practice, many of these laws apply exclusively to Islam.”

Uganda: One Muslim convert to Christianity was killed and two others beaten in three separate incidents:

  • The blood-stained body of 32-year-old Enoch Shaban—a Muslim convert to Christianity and member of the Church of Uganda—was found hanging from a tree. A local resident of the village said he heard Shaban shouting for help after another man said, “We have warned you several times of being a disgrace to our religion, and you have not taken seriously our warnings.” The witness added: “Two weeks before meeting his death, he had mentioned several messages on his phone warning him to recant the Christian faith and return to Islam.” The slain apostate appeared to have been struck on the head with a metallic object. The morning before his death, Muslims were reportedly seen conspicuously loitering around his workshop, a mile away from the murder scene. Although Uganda is majority Christian, the area where Enoch was killed is predominantly Muslim.
  • On the same day Shaban was killed, Aisha Twanza, 25—another Muslim convert to Christianity in Uganda—was poisoned by Muslim family members who put insecticide in her food. After their conversion last January, Aisha and her husband were forced to flee their village because relatives threatened to kill them. On August 10, family members informed Aisha that her mother was dying; she rushed to the village only to find that it was a lie to lure her back. Questioned about her conversion to Christianity, she refused to deny her new faith. “They were very disappointed with me for deserting Islam.” Her family then served her food and allowed her to return home: “Reaching home, I started feeling stomach upset that continued….Soon the pain intensified, and my husband rushed me to Mbale hospital, then I was taken to Pallisa, where poisoning was discovered after several tests. I never expected my parents to do such a thing to me, but I thank God for saving me.”
  • A Muslim husband savagely beat his wife after she attended church. Neighbors found Fatuma Baluka, 21, unconscious and rushed her to a hospital: “When I arrived home [from church that day], my husband shouted at me as an ‘infidel,’ and then and there started hitting me with a metallic object. I fell down, only to find myself in a hospital bed.” She has since been abandoned by her husband and extended Muslim family.

Ethiopia: Six weeks after a Muslim man discovered that his wife and mother of his three children had converted to Christianity, he locked her in the house and beat her with sticks; during her ordeal, neighbors heard him shouting—including that she “should die for forsaking Islam.” Neighbors found her soaked in blood from a deep gash in her forehead and rushed her to the hospital.

Pakistan: A 16-year-old Christian youth was arrested and could be executed for the crime of “blasphemy.” He allegedly posted or liked a picture of the Kaaba, Islam’s sacred temple in Mecca, with a pig on top of it on Facebook. Infuriated Muslims who saw the image immediately reported it to authorities which led to his arrest. Authorities also removed the image in an effort to calm local Muslims and prevent them from rioting. The arrested youth’s family fled their home in fear of reprisals. Accusations of blasphemy against Pakistan’s minorities are common and often false. Religious hatred, personal score settling, and economic gain are just a few of the motives behind false accusations of blasphemy.

Malaysia: Three Muslims who sought to legally convert to Christianity were denied conversion by the court system due to the implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law, which maintains that anyone born into Islam—i.e., whose father was Muslim—must remain Muslim. According to a source discussing this report, those trying to convert are often sent to a “purification center,” where they are made to recite different Islamic creeds so they are again considered Muslim. “This purification center utilizes torture, beatings, and psychological attacks to terrify new believers into recanting their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Muslim Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria

The ongoing jihad on Christians by both Boko Haram, an Islamic jihad group, and allied Muslim herdsmen, left many dead in its wake:

  • At least eight Christians were randomly shot dead by militants on motorbikes as they were exiting Sunday church service. A couple of weeks earlier Boko Haram had said it would begin “booby-trapping and blowing up every church that we are able to reach, and killing all of those who we find from the citizens of the cross.”
  • Another senior priest was kidnapped after his car was ambushed by Muslim herdsmen; during the attack they violently beat and tried to kill two other clergy in the car, including by shooting one in the head. On the same day a Vincentian priest was kidnapped along with his brother. Discussing these and other attacks on Christian clergy in recent weeks and months, several fatal, the communications director of the local diocese said: “One begins to wonder if Catholic priests have become an endangered species.”
  • Boko Haram insurgents killed at least two people during raids on Christian villages. They tied up one man with a rope and slaughtered him in front of his wife and children. They also burned homes and set the market square of one village ablaze.
  • A group of Fulani Muslim tribesmen attacked a 60-year-old Christian farmer while he was working his land and hacked him to death with machetes. He is “the latest victim of attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nasarawa state who have burned church buildings and homes and destroyed crops in the past four years,” said the report.
  • According to a separate report, Muslim Fulani tribesmen also killed another Christian pastor; raided Ningon village—murdering two Christians as they slept in their homes, and seriously wounding a girl with gunshots; and raided the Christian village of Ungwar Mada, forcing their way into a married couple’s home and slaughtering them.

Dhimmitude: Muslim Contempt for and Abuse of Christians

Saudi Arabia: Officials arrested 27 Christians—including several women and children—for the crime of “conducting Christian prayers” and being “in possession of Bibles.” The group of Christians, most if not all of whom were Lebanese nationals, were celebrating a feast day for the Virgin Mary when authorities stormed their residence and arrested them. Authorities, the dreaded “religious police,” proceeded to strip them of their visas and deport them back to Lebanon. Ironically, this is a much better fate than that suffered by other Christians caught engaging in “acts of Christianity” in the Islamic kingdom. In 2012, 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer. One of them reported after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”

Iran: At least 25 Christians were arrested in Kerman for unknown reasons. Security forces broke into the Christians’ homes, searched them, seized various objects, and then took the Christians in.  Officials did not reveal the reason for the arrest nor where the Christians were taken, leaving family and friends in distress.

In another incident, authorities raided a family garden party after they noticed it wasn’t closely observing conservative Islamic norms; without a warrant they arrested five men, former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Then they searched the premises and confiscated several items, including three Bibles. The arrested men were taken to an unknown location, though later reports suggest they were sent to Evin prison, where Iran’s worst criminals are caged.

Uzbekistan: Eight Christians were arrested and fined for possessing Christian literature, which is illegal in the Muslim majority nation. One Baptist, Stanislav Kim, was sentenced to two years in a corrective labor camp for being caught with Christian literature a second time in one year. The Christian literature was ordered to be handed over to the state-backed Muslim Board.

Malaysia: After Ben-Hur, originally a novel, was readapted into a 2016 movie and hit the big screen, movie goers were left disappointed and confused, as authorities cut out all scenes that portrayed Christ or had anything to do with Christianity, making the movie unintelligible. “I felt cheated,” said one viewer: “The novel from which this movie is adapted is Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ. It means Jesus is central to the plot. It was censored so much the storyline made no sense! How did Judah’s mother and sister get cured from leprosy? They just appeared at the end of the movie healed.” Such anti-Christian edits are consisted with the government’s ban on and confiscation of Bibles in the majority Muslim nation.

Egypt: After weeks of more frequent than usual attacks on the Christian minority in Minya, Upper Egypt, the government responded by appointing a Muslim cleric, Mahmoud Gomaa, to investigate the situation. Gomaa then appeared in a televised interview insisting that “Everything was good…. No one has been killed. No one has even been wounded. There’s no conflict. The problem is really with the journalists writing about it.” Bishop Makarios of Minya responded by saying, “I have nothing to do with Mahmoud Gomaa. We are at a breaking point. People can’t put up with any more of this.” He explained how in recent weeks Christians have indeed been killed—including a priest who was gunned down at the entrance of his church and a man who was stabbed to death by an angry mob—as well as numerous incidents of mob violence on Christians which left many injured and their properties looted and/or burned.

United States: In September, when Coptic Christians were suffering abuses “every two or three days” in Egypt, an Egyptian Muslim woman living in America made a video calling for more Muslim hostility against Egypt’s Christian minority, in the guise of an economic boycott. In a video, Ayat Oraby—a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer who has nearly 1.5 million followers on Facebook—called the Coptic Church a “bunch of gangsters,” a “total mafia” that “rules [Egypt] behind the curtains.” The Copts are reportedly “stockpiling weapons in churches” and “striving to create a Coptic statelet” in order to continue waging “a war against Islam.” That Oraby hates Copts simply because they are Christian came out clearly towards the end of her tirade, when she said: “They [Copts] must learn very well that the Crescent [Islam] must be above the Cross [Christianity.]” In fact, Copts pose no danger to Egypt’s Muslims — but they dare to want equal rights, when they should be content with second-class status.


Read it all and thousands more examples over the last five years in Raymond Ibrahim’s archives.

Blast at Egyptian Coptic cathedral kills at least 25

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Blast at Egyptian Coptic cathedral kills at least 25

December 11 at 4:04 PM
A bomb ripped through Cairo’s Coptic cathedral complex during Sunday Mass, killing at least 25 people and injuring 49, and delivering the bloodiest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in recent years, according to Egyptian officials and Christian community leaders.The explosion unfolded inside St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at the 100-year-old Botrosiya Church, also known as the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, shortly after the 200 or so worshipers had stopped reading Bible verses and the priest was getting to ready to start his sermon, witnesses said.About 9:45 a.m., “everything turned black suddenly,” Qelliny Farag said.

As of Sunday evening, there had been no claims of responsibility. But suspicion immediately fell on Islamist extremists, including Egypt’s Islamic State branch, who have staged numerous attacks across the country this year targeting soldiers, police and government officials. Sunday’s carnage came less than 48 hours after a bomb killed six police officers and injured an additional three on a road leading to Egypt’s famed Great Pyramids complex.

The bombing came on a public holiday here, commemorating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.

Coptic Christians gather at site of blast that killed 25 in Cairo

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Voicing anger toward the police and Egyptian government, Coptic Christians demonstrate outside the Coptic cathedral complex in Cairo where an explosion killed at least 25 and injured 49 on Dec. 11. (Heba Mahfouz / The Washington Post)

Although that is a Muslim celebration, the church was filled with more than the usual number of congregants taking advantage of the day off.

When the bomb detonated, Farag, 80, was seated on the left side of the church. His wife, Samiha Tawfik, was on the right side, along with the other female congregants.

“I could not see anything,” Farag said. “We were all in shock, covered in dust, running through corpses that got thrown by the intensity of the blast.”

Unable to breathe from the dust, his head pounding, he stumbled around the pews. Soon, he began to see, and understand, what had happened.

“A minute passed by and I started to see flesh scattered everywhere around us,” he said. “Even the ceiling had collapsed.”

He couldn’t find his wife.

Pattern of violence

Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Christian community, which makes up 10 percent of the population, has long felt discrimination at the hands of the country’s Muslims, as well as successive secular but authoritarian regimes. Attacks on Christians have intensified since the 2011 populist revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. At least 26 sectarian assaults have targeted the community this year alone, according to human rights activists.

Sunday’s bombing was the gravest sectarian attack on Christians in recent years. The cathedral complex houses the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, as well as the home of its leader, Pope Tawadros II.

Over the past six years, numerous attacks on Christians have left scores dead. On Jan. 1, 2011, the Church of Saints Mark and Peter in the northern city of Alexandria was bombed, killing 23 people as they left the New Year’s Day service. Ten months later, Egypt’s security forces killed 28 Christians protesting the demolition of a church, claiming the protesters first attacked them.

In 2013, Christians were targeted in a spate of attacks after Egypt’s elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former general who led the coup, condemned Sunday’s attack and declared three days of mourning.

“Vicious terrorism is being waged against the country’s Copts and Muslims,” he was quoted as saying on local television networks. “Egypt will emerge stronger and more united from this situation.”

In Washington, the State Department said that the “United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today on Christian worshipers outside St. Mark’s Cathedral.” In New York, the U.N. Security Council likewise condemned “the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.”

Analysts focusing on Egypt’s religious divides said the government has made previous promises to apprehend the perpetrators of hate crimes. But it has shown few results.

“Sectarian tensions in Egypt is ongoing and this attack, although shocking in its scope, is not an aberration,” said Amira Mikhail, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “Despite the shift in public rhetoric by President Sisi in which he has called for religious reform and has visited the cathedral on several occasions, little has been done to actually change the institutionalized sectarianism in the government and the continued violence perpetrated by nonstate actors.”

Some reports on local television networks suggested that a bomb was concealed inside a handbag in a section of the church designated for female worshipers. A large proportion of the victims were women, according to local reports.

Senior Egyptian officials, including the prime minister and interior minister, arrived at the church shortly after the attack. They were greeted by a small group of angry protesters who railed against the continual attacks on Christians, as well as security forces’ failure to stop the attacks.

“The police are thugs,” some in the crowd chanted.

“The people demand the removal of the regime,” others shouted.

Farag and other witnesses said they noticed no police or guards at the entrance to the church, although there is typically a heavy security presence at the cathedral to provide protection for the pope.

A frantic search

At El-Demerdash Hospital, where most of the victims were taken, doctors said the bulk of the casualties were women and children, most suffering from lacerations.

Farag, too, was there. He was searching for his wife.

“I asked everywhere, there is no trace of her,” he said, his face masked with anguish. “I think she was blown away to pieces and they cannot even find her corpse.”

Eyes filling with tears, he recalled how he had told his wife that he was tired and asked her if they could skip the service.

“But she told me not to give in to my weakness, and insisted we go to the mass today,” he said Farag, as he sat with other family members.

Nearby, Muslims and Christians gathered, some to donate blood, others to comfort their loved ones and check on the injured.

In a wheelchair near the hospital entrance, 65-year-old Tahany Gobraiel was one of the fortunate ones. She had attended the Mass with her daughter and a cousin, Suad Atta.

“Only two benches separated me from my cousin Suad,” ­Gobraiel said. “She was in the front bench near the altar, and I was seated two benches behind her. She died, while my daughter and I were only injured.”

Atta, also 65, had insisted on attending the Mass to commemorate her late husband. Sunday marked one year since his death.

As darkness enveloped the city, nearly eight hours after the bombing, Farag finally found his wife. She was in the intensive care unit of the hospital, battling for her life.

Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.

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