Christian Children Reveal Horror of Radical Muslim Attacks in Egypt

Egyptian Coptic Christian
Christians attend Sunday service in the Virgin Mary Church at Samalout Diocese in Al-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, May 3, 2015. Copts have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders and Sisi's actions suggested he would deliver on promises of being an inclusive president who could unite the country after years of political turmoil. However, striking out at extremists abroad might prove easier than reining in radicals at home. Orthodox Copts, the Middle East's biggest Christian community, are a test of Sisi's commitment to tolerance, a theme he often stresses in calling for an ideological assault on Islamist militants threatening Egypt's security. |

Coptic Christian children in Egypt have spoken out about the terror they have suffered in attacks by radical Muslims on the Christian community, as one of the nation's top bishops asks President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to provide more protection.

One 11-year-old girl recalled the night that angry Muslim residents torched her family's home in the village of Kom El Louf in Minya over suspicions that Christians were trying to use the building as a church.

"I was terrified. I saw men pour petrol on bundles of wood and throw them on our roof. When it began to fall on us, my father dragged us out," Susana Khalaf said in an interview with The Financial Times.

Ibrahim Khalaf, the girl's father, said Christians are being pressured by Muslim villagers to withdraw their police complaints, but he said there must be justice for the destroyed homes.

"We are told," he said, "'if you don't agree there will be blood. You have daughters who can be kidnapped. The security services won't stay in the village forever to protect you.'"

Christians across several villages have seen their homes destroyed by Muslim mobs over similar accusations, with human rights groups such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide calling on Egypt's House of Representatives to enact laws to protect the rights of Christians to worship.

CSW Senior Press Officer Kiri Kankhwende said in July that a "reconciliation meetings" that forced Christian victims to drop charges against their Muslim attackers cannot be a replacement for proper justice, because "they impose ad-hoc, unjust and often un-constitutional conditions on the victims of sectarian violence and perpetuate impunity for the perpetrators. Rule of law must be upheld, and must include security services nationwide serving every community without discrimination on the grounds of religion."

There have been numerous other attacks against Christians as well, with one elderly Christian mother in May stripped naked and beaten on the streets because of a rumor that her son was having an affair with a Muslim woman.

FT noted that although Sisi promised to protect Christians when he came to power in 2013, Copts are growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of justice and the rising spate of attacks against them.

Bishop Makarios of Minya has said that Sisi must back up his promises with actual action.

"There's a gap between what the president says and what the executive implements," Makarios said. "We have been patient and understanding, but many Copts increasingly feel he [Mr Sisi] has to take a position."

Mina Thabet, program director for minorities and vulnerable groups with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms, also warned earlier in July that attacks against Coptic Christians have been escalating.

Thabet pointed out that Christians have been beaten, threatened and intimidated for practicing their faith, with the continued failure of police and government officials to punish those responsible only encouraging further attacks.

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