No punishment, no repentance: The persecution of Christians in Egypt

(Christian Today) Memories of the attack have never faded from Souad Thabet’s mind.

An Egyptian Coptic Christian woman in her 70s, Souad wishes she could forget the moment that a group of Muslim men invaded her home in El-Karam village in Egypt. They dragged her out of the house and stripped her. In her ears, is the noise and giggle of the large crowd of spectators. She was mocked and beaten. Her husband was too.

That was in 2016. Recently, Souad learned that her attackers have been acquitted.

El-Karam is a village of 40,000 people, 5 per cent Coptic Christian. A rumour spread in the village that Souad’s son Ashraf was having an affair with a married Muslim woman. Both Ashraf and the woman, Nagwa, denied the allegation. Ashraf believed the rumour to have been spread by Nagwa’s husband, who used to be his business partner, but they had fallen out. Ashraf even received death threats and reported them to the police. However, authorities did nothing, and he finally fled the village with his wife and children. His parents remained behind.

One night, a mob of local Muslims armed with weapons broke into several Christian homes, including Ashraf’s. After looting the properties, they set fire to them. Ashraf’s mother was dragged outside and stripped by Nagwa’s husband, his father and brother, as she later testified.

Reconciliation without repentance

Violent mob attacks on Christians in Egypt mostly occur within mixed Muslim/Christian communities, with Christians generally the much smaller population. Radicalised Muslims, and sometimes the local Imams, promote the shunning of Christians, creating a fertile ground for aggression. Rumours of alleged blasphemy, the opening of a new church or even a small conflict over a trivial matter can trigger organised attacks on local Christians.

(Photo: Open Doors International)

Often, these attacks are followed by so-called ‘reconciliation sessions’ meant to resolve the conflict. Christians usually have no choice but to participate. Next, they are pressured, with threats and intimidation, to accept the terms imposed on them: to change their testimonies against the perpetrators or recant their complaints to the authorities. This practice perpetuates a climate of impunity where Muslims who have committed crimes against Christians are cleared of charges or not prosecuted at all.