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Disappearance of Christian girls prompts protests in Egypt

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Disappearance of Christian girls prompts protests in Egypt

Country/Region: Egypt, Middle East and North Africa

Egyptian Christians are reeling over the suspected abduction of two Christian teenage girls, arson attacks on Christian homes and threats to kill a church leader in three separate incidents.

Cousins Christine Ezzat Fathy (16) and Nancy Magdy Fathy (14) from Minya, Upper Egypt, went missing on their way to church on Sunday 12 June. Their families accused two young Muslim men of kidnapping the girls, and there are reports that ransom payments were demanded for their return.

Following their disappearance, hundreds of Christians staged a two day sit-in outside the Minya Security Headquarters, calling for action by the authorities to search for the girls.

They were found by police nearly two weeks later in Cairo wearing burqas; the girls apparently said that they had converted to Islam of their own free will and refused to return to their families. But the families’ lawyer, Dr Naguib Gabriel, said it was possible the girls were pressurised to say they had converted voluntarily. The girls’ conversion has been declared invalid by the country’s leading Islamic scholars because they are minors.

The abduction and forced conversion of Christian girls, who are married against their will to Muslim men, is sadly a recurring story in Egypt. Since the revolution in January, there has been a surge in disappearances of Christian girls; one church leader in Cairo estimated that at least 21 young girls had gone missing from his parish alone.

Opposition to churches

egypt-church-4x3.jpg
Tensions flare over Muslim opposition
to church buildings in Egypt
CC BY 2.0 by ideacreamanuelaPps

Egyptian Christians have also come under attack over the contentious issue of church buildings.

In the Upper Egyptian village of Awlad Khalaf, a mob of nearly 200 Muslims torched eight homes belonging to Christians on Saturday morning. The attack was prompted by a rumour that a house that is being built by one resident will be turned into a church; the construction site was attacked, and eight homes were looted and torched. Three people were injured.

Elsewhere, hundreds of Muslims surrounded a church in the village of Beni Ahmed West, near Minya, threatening to kill the church leader, who was locked inside with a number of worshippers during a morning service last week. Eyewitnesses reported that the Muslim mob, some of whom were carrying weapons, were chanting, “We will kill him and no one will prevent us.” One of the ringleaders said that they would “cut him to pieces”.

After five hours, security forces arrived and escorted the church leader to safety.

Muslims have been targeting the 100-year-old church since March when they tried to block construction work, despite the fact that the church held a renovation license. They threatened to demolish the building and demanded that the church leader and his family leave the village; he was given a 35-day deadline, later extended to 50 days. Muslims started gathering near the church last week when they learnt that he was defying the ban.

These tensions surrounding church buildings come as a draft law on places of worship in Egypt is being scrutinised by the country’s religious leaders. The bill, which stipulates that building a new place of worship will be allowed only if it is 1km away from an existing one, has been criticised as too restrictive and impractical. A new place of worship will also require the consent of the local governor.

Though the bill applies to all places of worship (while existing restrictions apply only to church buildings), it is feared that Christians will continue to be discriminated against in the application of the new legislation. Muslims are often hostile to the construction of churches and have carried out numerous attacks on buildings and Christian communities as a result.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 10 hours ago

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

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