Egypt's president has promised to prosecute an armed Muslim mob that burned down the homes of Christians in the Minya province May 20. The attack came after that same group accused a Christian man of having an affair with a Muslim woman earlier last month, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Though the accused man was believed to have fled the country with his wife and children May 19, remaining Christian family members have faced extreme persecution in his absence. In addition to the fire, the mob also stripped the man’s 70-year-old Christian mother naked after dragging her out of her home.
The hashtag “#EgyptStrippedNaked” took off on social media last week shortly after it was introduced.
Although hundreds of Muslims participated in the May 20 attack, only six people were arrested, the AP reported.
According to Ahram Online, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Monday during a speech in Cairo that those responsible for what happened to the 70-year-old Christian woman and the homes burned to the ground in Minya will be held responsible.
"When I address my speech to this woman, I don't say this [Christian] Egyptian because we are all one," el-Sisi was quoted as saying. "I call on this woman not to be angered by what happened."
Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt's population of more than 90 million people, have long complained of religious persecution in the mostly Muslim nation.
El-Sissi, in office since 2014, has sought to address some of their grievances, changing election laws to allow more Christians into the national legislature and easing restrictions on building new churches and renovating old ones. But many Christians say they are still treated unfairly and are often the victims when in disputes with Muslims.
Discrimination is more pronounced in Egypt’s rural provinces like Minya, where Christians are a sizable minority that make up about 35 percent of the population. Minya, like Assiut province farther south, is a traditional stronghold of militant Muslims.
Anba Makarios, Minya's top Christian cleric, told a talk show host on the private Dream TV network last week that, after the mob stripped the 70-year-old mother and grandmother naked, they forced her to walk through the streets naked as they chanted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great."
The woman waited five days to report the incident to the police, Makarios said, adding that she had initially found it too difficult to "swallow the humiliation" she suffered and notify authorities.
Makarios predicted the attack on the Minya village will most likely be handled through a government-sponsored meeting of the two sides in which the Christians will be forced to accept "humiliating" conditions for reconciliation.
Egypt is ranked 22nd on the Open Doors USA's 2016 World Watch List. On the organization's website, the country’s persecution level is listed as “severe,” and the source of persecution is listed as “Islamic extremism.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.