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Catching Our Eye

Copts flee El-Arish after sixth murder in month

Egyptian Christians are beginning to flee Sinai’s largest city, El-Arish, after yet another Copt was killed there, reports Watani.

Kamel Youssef, a 40 year old plumber, yesterday (23 Feb) became the latest victim, according to AP, which said militants stormed his home and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. Other sources say he was shot in the neck and the family’s home was set on fire.

This followed the killing of a father and son the day before, after an Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group vowed to “eliminate” Egyptian Christians.

Six Copts have been killed in El-Arish in the past month and now a number of Coptic families are leaving, including the family of murdered schoolteacher Gamal Tawfiq, who was shot dead on his way to school on 16 Feb, and the family of the murdered father and son, who will stay in their hometown of Suez, where they had travelled to bury their dead.

Another seven families have reportedly travelled to Ismailiya, on the Suez Canal, where a church has provided them with accommodation. Rev. Ezzat told Watani that another five families are expected today (24 Feb) and that 20 families are expected in total.

A Cairo church is reportedly helping families to move their belongings.

Deaths at the hands of militant Islamists in the Sinai Peninsula are not new, especially since the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, but the Egyptian security forces have been the target; now Coptic Christians are included.

Iraqi Christian homes ‘looted after IS left’

Armed forces fighting Islamic State (IS) near Mosul “looted, damaged and destroyed homes” belonging to displaced Iraqis, including Christians, Human Rights Watch said this week.

The New York-based agency used satellite imagery and took witness statements, and concluded that looting and destruction took place in the weeks after IS fighters had been chased out of locations including the Christian-majority city of Qaraqosh.

It noted that active in the region are the mainly Shia Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi) that were formed largely to combat ISIS, and are under the direct command of Prime Minister al-Abadi. Military personnel in the area and residents interviewed told the agency that present in Qaraqosh were the Iraqi military’s 9th Division, local and federal police, and the small and mainly Christian Nineveh Plain Protection Units.

The agency said it was unable to identify the forces responsible for these abuses, and urged the Iraqi authorities and the UN Human Rights Council to investigate their findings – which they say may amount to war crimes – and hold those responsible to account.

Hussein Al-Alak, editor of the Iraq Solidarity blog, noted that identifying culprits would be complicated by the easy availability of police and army uniforms from street markets.

Trump travel ban dints Iraqi Christians’ support

Iraqi Christians who backed the candidacy of Donald Trump have become disillusioned with his presidency since his executive order barred Iraqis, along with citizens of six other Muslim-majority countries, from entering the US.

Many Iraqi minorities supported Trump because of his anti-Islamic State rhetoric.

The Assyrian Church of the East’s Fr. Emanuel Youkhana, in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Dohuk, lamented that Assyrians, who represent many of Iraq’s Christians, “live [with] this illusion of a saviour” because of traumatic persecution over the last century.

He rejected the idea that the ban is Islamophobic and accused some Western nations of being “naïve” in their efforts to address Islamist-linked terrorism.

However, he said he did not believe Western nations should welcome large numbers of Iraqi Christians. Failing to enable Christians to live in Iraq would amount to “completing the unfinished mission of IS,” he said.

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