At least 40 Coptic Christians have been killed in "targeted attacks" in Egypt over the last three months and many are being warned they must "leave or die," a prominent Coptic bishop has said.
Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos, the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, issued a statement Tuesday decrying the escalating violence the Christian community in Egypt has faced over the last several weeks.
As The Christian Post has reported, there has been an ongoing series of murders of Christians and deliberate attacks on the Coptic community in recent weeks, some of which Islamic State militants in the Sinai Peninsula are believed to be responsible for.
Angaelos has said the number of Christians who've been murdered in recent attacks on the Coptic community is now up to 40 in just the last three months.
"I have now drafted and redrafted this statement numerous times over the past weeks, wanting to say something about the deadly attacks experienced by Coptic Christians in Egypt on a daily basis. Yet every time I do, there seems to be a new and often more horrifying attack that needs to be addressed," Angaelos wrote in a statement shared with CP. "In the past three months alone 40 Coptic Christians have been murdered in targeted attacks in Egypt."
"From the [Dec. 11] terrorist bombing on St. Peter's Coptic Church in Cairo that claimed the lives of 29 mainly women and children, to the murders of individuals across the country since, the one common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians," Angaelos said.
Just this month, at least seven Coptic Christians were killed in the Sinai coastal town of Al-Arish.
As previously reported, a Christian teacher was shot in the head on his way home from work in Al-Arish by two militants on a motorbike.
Additionally, an elderly Christian man was shot to death in the Al-Arish region, while his 45-year-old son was burned alive by suspected militants.
The crimes come as an IS-affiliate in Sinai released a video warning that Christians are its "favorite prey."
In January, at least five Coptic Christians had their throats slashed and were killed in a two-week span.
The rise in violence against Christians in Egypt has forced hundreds of Coptic Christians in the northern Sinai region to flee their homes out of fear that they or their family members could be the next victims of Islamic extremism.
According to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List, Egypt ranks as the 21st worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
"Incitement by terrorist groups that call for the killing of Christians in Egypt has spiralled over the past weeks to the extent that lists of churches and individuals have now been released as desirable targets," Angaelos explained. "While persecution is nothing new for the Coptic community, this escalation of attacks over the past months, culminating in the most recent murders of seven Christians in Al-Arish, has resulted in the displacement of hundreds forced to leave their generations-old homes in North Sinai."
"These horrific attacks have gone largely unnoticed by the international community, but Copts continue to suffer tragic violations daily," Angaelos added.
Angaelos asserted that crimes against Christians are "religiously motivated." He points out that in many cases, extremists have circulated flyers in villages that tell Christians to "leave or die."
"Similar events have tragically occurred far too often over the past years, and there is unfortunately little deterrent to prevent them from reoccurring," Angaelos added.
"In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become 'incidents,' and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news," he continued. "In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind is traumatized individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted."
Angaelos further emphasized that even though Copts in Egypt have faced persecution and atrocities, they have done their part to remain peaceful and forgive their persecutors.
"After the destruction of over 100 places of Christian ministry and worship in August of 2013, the bombing of various churches across the country in the last decade, and the targeted killing of clergy, families, women and children, purely for their faith, the community and individuals within it remain non-violent and resilient," he stressed. "Despite there being condemnation of these attacks by national government and authorities, there is yet to be a consistent robust and fair implementation of these same sentiments more regionally and locally."