There has been a spike in the kidnappings of Christians in Egypt, further evidence of the precarious situation of the minority religious community in the embattled country, according to an investigation by the Christian Science Monitor.
Quoting church officials and Christian activists, correspondent Kristen Chick reported on Tuesday that more than 100 Egyptians in the last two and a half years have been kidnapped for ransom in southern Egypt, nearly all of them Christians. In particular, since the deadly clashes in mid-August between police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters during which hundreds were killed, “there has been a sharp increase in kidnappings.”
Of those, more than 80 have been kidnapped in Minya Province which is home to a large Christian population. “And victims, activists, and church officials say the police have largely ignored the problem, rarely taking steps to stop the kidnappers or bring them to justice,” Chick wrote.
The Christian Science Monitor wrote that Minya could be referred to as “Egypt’s capital of kidnappings. More people have been snatched in this city and Province than in any other place in southern Egypt.”
The paper described the fear in which Christian residents live. Doctors and pharmacists make up the majority of the kidnap victims. Those who have not fallen victim “live in fear of disappearing on a dark rural road…or that their children will be snatched on the way to school.”
The damaged interior of the Saint Moussa Church is seen a day after it was torched in sectarian violence following the dispersal of two Cairo sit-ins of supporters of the ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. (Photo: AP)
This has in turn led to a reduction in the availability of healthcare services as some Christian doctors are afraid to travel to work out of town.
The Monitor reported:
Christians are targeted because they do not have tribes or families who retaliate, unlike many Muslims in southern Egypt. As a tight-knit minority community, they are also perceived as able to raise large sums of money from friends and relatives for ransoms. And in Egypt, crimes against Christians have long gone routinely unpunished, fueling an environment of impunity.
The kidnappings are mostly crimes of opportunity, not hate. But some suspect that the spike of the last three months has been driven by Islamists’ blame toward Christians, who they accuse of supporting the protests and military coup against [former President Mohammed] Morsi.
Raymond Ibrahim who monthly tracks the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world and has written extensively about the killings of Christians and burning of churches in Egypt wrote in his latest roundup published Wednesday, “Upper Egypt, especially Minya, which has a large Christian minority, was hit especially hard [since July], with at least 20 attacks on churches, Christian schools and orphanages.”
Ibrahim quoted one resident who said, “The Islamists burnt and destroyed everything. Their goal was to erase all the traces of a Christian presence; even the orphanages were looted and destroyed.”
Kidnapping victim Hany Sedhom, a Christian doctor, told the Monitor that he was grabbed by gunmen as he was driving home in September.
“They dragged him out of the vehicle, striking his head with a rifle butt and slashing his face with a knife before tying his hands, blindfolding him, and driving off into the desert with him,” the paper wrote.
He was released 48 hours after enduring beating, torture and being held in a pit. His wife paid a ransom of $43,500 to secure his freedom.
“I never thought I could take one millionth of what I endured,” he says. “But every step of the way, every moment of pain, I could feel God there with me, telling me, 'I'm going to save you,’” Sedhoum said.
According to a local bishop, only two or three people were rescued by police. Families of the others have been left to negotiate with kidnappers on their own.