Egypt attack: Islamic State’s religious cleansing of Christians has now spread to Egypt

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Egypt, June 1, 2017: Last Friday, 29 Egyptian Christians were murdered and a further 22 injured as they travelled to a monastery. The ambush happened as the vehicles carrying the Christians were on a road that only led to the monastery. Men were taken off the buses, their identity cards checked to see that they were Christians and then told to recite the Islamic shahada indicating that they were converting to Islam. All of the murdered men refused to renounce their Christian faith in this way. Among the bodies were left Islamist leaflets, reportedly on the subject of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan which was just about to begin.

The ambush was part of a series of recent Islamic State attacks that have specifically targeted churches and monasteries in Egypt. On 18 April, IS jihadists opened fire at St Catherine’s monastery in southern Sinai killing a policeman, but were driven off before they could mount a full attack. On 9 April (Palm Sunday), suicide bombers attacked St George’s Church in Tanta, in the Delta region, and St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria shortly after the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros, had finished leading the worship service. Forty-six Christians were killed in these two attacks. On 11 December 2016, IS bombed a church in Cairo killing 25 worshippers and injuring more than 60 others. On 30 June 2016, IS jihadists gunned down a Christian minister on his way home from leading worship in Sinai Province. These attacks, which appear to be escalating, bear significant parallels to the attacks on Christians that began in Iraq in 2004 and later spread to Syria.

For example, there is a specific targeting of churches during worship and attempts to assassinate Christian leaders and, as we have seen in this latest attack, the issuing of an ultimatum to Christians – “convert to Islam or be killed”.

Just as in Iraq and Syria, it is not only Islamic State who have targeted Christians. Since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in summer 2013 more than 60 churches have been attacked, many of them in Minya province, as well as Christian schools and a hospital. Much of the violence has been, and continues to be, incited by senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, even though other groups appear to have carried out the recent attacks. After Friday’s attack the Muslim Brotherhood even put out a statement claiming the Egyptian government had carried out the attack, a subtle twist on their normal rhetoric which simply blames Egyptian Christians for “inciting” attacks on churches.

The Islamists’ strategy appears to be one of religious cleansing, seeking to eradicate Egypt’s non-Muslim population, which the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s latest report estimates at between 10 and 15 percent of the population, that is between about 9.5 million and 14 million people. In February, Islamic State issued a video calling Christians “our favourite prey”. In Northern Sinai they have already largely succeeded, with hundreds of Christians fleeing the town of al Arish already this year after jihadists threatened to hang them from the roofs of their houses if they did not leave.

This latest attack happened at the start of Ramadan, a time when jihadists believe they will be granted military victories and receive extra rewards in paradise if they are killed. So it is likely that further such attacks will be attempted in the near future.

Despite this, Western politicians appear deaf to the fact that the religious cleansing and specific targeting of Christians that began in Iraq and Syria has now clearly spread to Egypt. As we observed earlier this week in relation to the UK general election, the rapidly growing global spread of Christian persecution is the elephant in the room that Western politicians simply will not address.

– barnabas persecution update

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