Copts form the largest surviving Christian contingent in the Middle East and North Africa today.
Copts form the largest surviving Christian contingent in the Middle East and North Africa today. (World Watch Monitor)

Since May 2016, Egypt’s Christians have suffered multiple attacks.

Reflecting what most Copts see as the country turning a blind eye to increased violence against its Christian minority, the Coptic Church’s Bishop Makarius tweeted on 17 July “reminding” president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi that Copts “are Egyptian citizens”, and that his diocese of Minya “falls within the country’s jurisdiction”.

On 7 July, the bishop said Egypt was “diseased” with discrimination. Home to nearly double the national average of 10% of Christians, Makarius’s diocese of Minya and Abu-Qurqas has seen a number of attacks.

  • 17 July: One Christian was killed and three others were injured in an assault at a Coptic priest’s family home in the village of Tahna el-Gabal, Minya (250km south of Cairo). Reports by mainstream Egyptian media said the incident was due to a “scuffle” involving Muslims and Christians, but sources closely following the incident said it was a “deliberate attack on the priest” who was thought to be trying to open up a church building authorities had refused to license.
  • 16 July: Christians woke up to find a fire raging at 3am inside the village church in Madamoud, Luxor (650km south of Cairo). According to the local priest the rescue services came one hour later, after fire had already gutted the church. Fr. Paulos Atta told World Watch Monitor he could easily rule out the presence of any physical cause to the fire inside the church, which lies in an area where Christians mainly live. An investigation into the incident is still pending.
  • 15 July: Five homes belonging to Copts were looted and torched in a village off Abu-Qurqas, Minya, after it was rumoured that a building – home to a church-run nursery – was being turned into a church.
  • 9 July: In Zagazig (83km northeast of Cairo), two women were attacked as they were leaving the town’s Anba Karas Church. Ahmed Adel Kamel, a second-year pharmacy student, stabbed both women in the neck. The two Christians were rushed to hospital in a critical condition, while the young man was arrested. World Watch Monitor learnt from the husband of one of the victims that the perpetrator twice admitted to police that he was carrying out the attack “following the Islamic State’s instructions”.
  • 5 July: The body of Magdi Attiya Gabriel, 33, a pharmacist, was found beheaded and stabbed nine times in a house opposite his own in the Delta town of Tanta (93km north of Cairo). The house where Gabriel was murdered was occupied by a Salafist (Islamically puritanical) neighbour and another man. Gabriel was first called over the road to give medical advice. Outside his callers’ front door he was engaged in a conversation for half an hour, then taken inside, as neighbours began hearing cries for help. The suspect attackers were seen fleeing with their clothes stained in blood, while Gabriel’s body was found inside. No reason was given for the attack.
  • 2 July: A priest’s daughter narrowly escaped being slaughtered outside the bishopric of Sohag (500km south of Cairo). Lucia Angaelos Murad, 14, was suddenly grabbed from behind by her hair, while her attacker tried to slit her throat. Missing her vital artery, the attacker stabbed her instead in the neck and upper shoulder, when church youths hurried to her rescue. Mohamed Taha, described as wearing wide-fitting clothes and wielding a knife, was arrested and later remanded in a psychiatric ward for observation after his family claimed he was insane.
  • 30 June: Fr. Raphael Moussa of St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Church is killed in Arish, North Sinai in an attack claimed by “Islamic State”, describing the priest as “waging war against Islam”.
  • 30 June: Four homes belonging to four brothers were attacked at 1am in a village off Samalout, Minya (230km south of Cairo), after Ayoub Khallaf Fahmi was rumoured to be “setting up a church”. All four homes were looted and torched. At the police station, Fahmi signed a pledge that he was setting up a residential property and not a church.
  • Update (13 July): World Watch Monitor learnt that Ibrahim, one of the Fahmi brothers, was assaulted despite the presence of security forces stationed in the village after 30 June. Security forces released the injured Copt from the hands of four assailants, who remain at large despite earlier warrants for their arrest on charges of involvement in torching the brothers’ homes. Ibrahim says his attackers were again allowed to go free to pressure him and his brothers to “reconcile”, while threats were made against their sons to force them to withdraw their earlier complaints to the police.
  • On 14 July, one such threat apparently materialised when a Coptic girl, Rizka Malak, 18, was “held by hardliners” to intimidate the Copts into withdrawing their complaints against their Muslim attackers, said a Coptic bishop, quoting Christians in the same village. Meanwhile, Ayoub Fahmi told World Watch Monitor that he, his three brothers and all members of their four families remain huddled in a 30-square-metre tractor-shack next to their gutted homes, deprived of necessities, including toilet facilities.
  • 17 June: After Friday Muslim prayers, more than 5,000 people, young and old, mobbed homes of Copts in a settlement off Alexandria, after reports a Copt was turning his home into a church. Ten Christian homes were looted, while the family of 46-year-old Naim Moussa, the man at the centre of the unconfirmed reports, faced police pressures to “reconcile” with the attackers.
  • 29 May: A baker, Romani Attef, 26, died of several stab wounds in a street in Shobra el-Kheima (northern Cairo) in front of his wife. The assailant, Amr Ibrahim Abdelaziz, repeated as he was stabbing his victim that he was “doing this in obedience to what Allah has decreed”. He later claimed mental insanity, and was detained in a psychiatric ward.