Attacks on Christian children, both boys and girls, are on the rise in Egypt.
Last week, a six-year-old Coptic Christian boy named Cyril Yusuf Sa‘ad was abducted and held for ransom. After his family paid off the Muslim kidnapper, Ahmed Abdel Moneim Abdel-Salam, he still killed the child and threw his body in the sewer of his house. In the words of the Arabic report, the boy’s “family is in tatters after paying 30,000 pounds to the abductor, who still killed the innocent child and threw his body into the toilet of his home, where the body, swollen and moldy, was exhumed.”
Weeks earlier, ten-year-old Sameh George, an altar boy at the Coptic church of St. Abdul Masih (Servant of Christ) in Minya, Egypt, was kidnapped by “unknown persons” while on his way to church to participate in Holy Pascha prayers leading up to Orthodox Easter. His parents and family reported that it was his custom to go to church and worship in the evening, but when he didn’t return, and they began to panic, they received an anonymous phone call from the kidnappers, saying that they had the Christian boy in their possession and would execute him unless they received 250,000 Egyptian pounds in ransom money.
And about a month before this latter incident, yet another Coptic boy, twelve-year-old Abanoub Ashraf, was also kidnapped right in front of his church, St. Paul in Shubra al-Khayma district. His abductors, four men, put a knife to his throat, dragged him to their car, opened fire on the church, and then sped away. Later they called the boy’s family demanding an exorbitant amount of money to ransom the boy’s life.
While the immediate motive behind these kidnappings is money, another purpose appears to be to frighten Christian families from sending their children to church. Otherwise, why were both boys kidnapped right in front of their respective churches? (Considering that some Egyptian Islamic clerics deem church attendance as worse than attending bars and brothels, the kidnappers likely deem this the “altruistic” side of their greed and hate.)
Meanwhile, as females, Coptic Christian girls are even more vulnerable than Coptic boys. As an International Christian Concern report puts it, “hundreds of Christian girls … have been abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forced into marriage in Egypt. These incidents are often accompanied by acts of violence, including rape, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental abuse.”
Most recently, fourteen-year-old Agape Essam Girgis went to school accompanied by a Muslim social worker and two teachers, one of whom was a Salafi, and never returned. After protests, she was eventually “handed over to her family and the church priest where she stayed with his family for some time due to the terrible ordeal she experienced during her abduction.” According to a Coptic bishop involved in the case, what happened to Agape—whose name is based on the biblical word for “brotherly love”—is “heart-breaking.” She was drugged and awakened to find herself in a secluded place with an elderly woman and Salafis who tried to convert her to Islam, forced her to wear the full hijab, and beat her.
A few weeks earlier, fourteen-year-old Sarah Abdelmalek was also abducted on her way to school. Later it was reported that “Sarah was smuggled across the borders to Libya [where Coptic Christians are being brutalized] with the help of the Interior Ministry.” The new Coptic pope said the kidnapping and forced conversion of Sarah is a “disgrace for the whole of Egypt,” adding “Can any family accept the kidnapping of their daughter and her forced conversion?”
And yet, in the last few years, some 550 cases of abduction, entrapment, rape, and forced conversion of Christian women have been documented in Egypt. Their rate has only increased after the “Arab Spring” and the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood—which has seen a concomitant rise is sexual harassment of all Egyptian women. Ironically, when President Morsi was in Germany last February, he was asked to address the issue of victimized Coptic girls, only to respond by saying the idea that they were being abducted and abused was merely a rumor.
But according to Coptic Solidarity President Adel Guindy: “Any objective and fair review of the cases of forced conversion of Coptic girls, which started four decades ago but dramatically escalated after January 2011 [when the “Arab Spring” reached Egypt], will show a clear pattern of events that point to well organized ‘hidden hands’ behind the process. Amazingly, the collusion of Egypt’s security as well as judiciary authorities—in defiance of the existing laws concerning minors—shows the extent of the scheme. It is part of a ‘war of attrition’ against the Copts in their own homeland.”
Thus, as with any number of recent indicators—including an unprecedented assault on their holiest site and the codification of legal measures to oppress them—the jihad on the children of Egypt’s Christian minority is yet another indicator that a rapidly Islamizing Egypt is hostile to its oldest and most indigenous inhabitants, the Copts, and, as happened to the Jews before them, an example in such societies of what awaits groups considered “other.”
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.