Wednesday, January 20, 2010

039. Egypt: what sort of justice?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 039 | Wed 20 Jan 2010


Ever since 2007 the Egyptian government has been appeasing Islamic fundamentalists by implementing the Sharia provision that prohibits Christians from testifying against their Muslim persecutors. This heralds a return to the highly vulnerable state of dhimmitude (see ). No longer equal before the law, Coptic victims of persecution are denied justice and forced instead into 'reconciliation sessions' where they must drop all charges in exchange for 'peace'. When Coptic Orthodox Church leaders started refusing to participate, police began arresting innocent Copts to use as 'bargaining chips'. The impunity is fuelling the dramatic escalation in violent persecution of Christians.

As reported in last week's RLPB 038 (13 Jan 2010), six Christians were killed and at least nine wounded late on Wednesday 6 January when Muslim thugs sprayed automatic weapon fire into a crowd of Coptic Christians emerging from St John's Church in Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt. A Muslim security guard was also killed. (This was the most deadly attack against Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christian community since the Ramadan massacre of some 20 Copts in Al-Kosheh between 31 December 1999 and 2 January 2000.) The three Muslim suspects arrested on 8 January 2010 have since been charged with premeditated murder aimed at harming national interests. The government denies that the attack was sectarian in nature. They will face an emergency state security court in Qena, 50km south of Nag Hammadi, on 13 February. (Emergency courts handle terrorism cases.)

However, police have also unleashed a campaign of intimidation against local Copts and their supporters. According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), ever since 8 January police have been carrying out random arrests of Coptic Christians in Nag Hammadi and neighbouring Bahgoura. AINA reports: 'Anwar Samuel, a head teacher from Nag Hammadi, told Freecopts that State Security came to their home at four o'clock in the morning looking for his nephew Mohareb, who happened to be in Kuwait. "Instead they arrested my three other nephews, Fadi, Tanios and Wael Milad Samuel, and took them away in their pyjamas." He said they have been subjected to electric shocks.' In some cases, police tricked Coptic youths into going with them by telling them that Bishop Kyrollos wanted them to do so for their safety. 'Habib Tanios was arrested on charges of firing on people who burnt his home in Bahgoura, although he has no rifle.' According to AINA, more than 100 Coptic youths have been arrested. Question: Are the security forces extracting false testimonies that can be used to derail the prosecution (as happened in Al-Kosheh in 1998 )?

A week later (15 January) a group of some 30 religious liberty advocates (politicians and bloggers, Muslims and Christians) travelled by rail to Nag Hammadi to express condolences and support to the Coptic community. Though they had obtained permission, they were met at Nag Hammadi station by a large contingent of police who arrested them as soon as they alighted. Forced to endure a night in detention, they were threatened with charges of illegally demonstrating. The next day, after some of the women received hospital treatment for dehydration and fatigue, they were forcibly returned to Cairo. Question: Why is the government so determined to keep human rights advocates away from the local Copts?


* God will expose the ugly reality of militant Islamic intolerance and pierce the conscience of Muslims across Egypt so they might reject impunity and demand equality and justice for all citizens; may they even call in question their religion.

* the Holy Spirit will comfort, encourage and sustain Egypt's oppressed and persecuted Christians through these increasingly dark days of 'woe' (Isaiah 3:9,11). 'Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. (3:10 ESV)'

* God will use these trials to draw all Egypt's persecuted Christians even closer to himself to experience his divine presence, peace and protection in answer to their prayers.

* their faith will be in God alone (not domestic or international politics) and Christ will be the object of their hope.



Egyptian authorities are keeping cases of Muslim violence against Christians from the courts by forcing Christian victims to drop all charges in 'reconciliation sessions' in exchange for 'peace'. When Coptic Orthodox Church leaders started refusing to participate, police began arresting innocent Copts to use as 'bargaining chips'. On 8 January, three Muslims were arrested over the 6 January Nag Hammadi church massacre and on 13 February will be tried for 'premeditated murder aimed at harming national interests'. However, the police have arrested over 100 local Copts as part of a campaign of intimidation. Also religious freedom advocates have been barred access to the Nag Hammadi Copts. Are the authorities seeking to cover up the crime and scuttle the prosecution? Please pray for God's intervention in Egypt on behalf of his people.