More than 100 Christian families have fled Egypt’s northern Sinai region as Islamic militants continue attacking Christians and threaten to increase the violence.
More than seven Coptic Christians have been killed in recent weeks. Islamic militants Thursday stormed the home of Kamel Youssef in the northern Sinai town of el-Arish and killed him in the presence of his wife and children. Earlier on Wednesday, militants killed a Coptic man and burned his son alive, dumping the bodies on the roadside afterwards.
The ISIS affiliate known as Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula released a video Feb. 19 threatening more attacks on the country’s Christian population. Several Christians who fled the Sinai province said the militants circulated hit lists, further prompting many people to leave the region.
“I’m not going to wait for death,” Rami Mina, who fled el-Arish on Friday, told Reuters. “I shut down my restaurant and got out of there.”
Nabil Shukrallah, an official with the Evangelical Church of Ismailia, said more than 100 families have fled el-Arish. The majority of them have sought refuge in churches in Ismailia that are providing shelter and other basic amenities. Several families in the region also have opened their homes to the displaced, and Christians across the country are sending aid.
The Sinai Peninsula has served as the ISIS stronghold in Egypt. Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have borne the brunt of the increased attacks. ISIS in its video described the Coptic Christians as its “favorite prey.” The Coptic Church in a statement denounced the attacks as an attempt to target the country’s united front against terrorism.
Mina Misak, a 20-year-old from el-Arish, said he fled for Ismailia because of the escalated attacks. Misak said militants killed his father a year ago in a drive-by shooting, and he found no reason to stay behind.
“It tore me to pieces when I found out, and now it’s even worse—there’s no reason to stay,” he said. “Most of my friends and family have left.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said the government would provide assistance to the Christian families. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Omar Marawan said Sunday the government already provided shelter for some of the displaced families. The country’s social solidarity ministry would bear the victims’ costs of education, accommodation, and healthcare, he added. Maj. Gen. Mostafa al-Razaz, North Sinai’s deputy police chief, told Reuters security forces set up additional patrols and checkpoints and are capable of handling the crisis.
But many of the Christians have complained of the government’s limited efforts to ensure their safety. Maha Fayez, one of the displaced in Ismailia, told Mada Masr security forces restrict themselves to two-hour sweeps and never reach the terror-afflicted regions.
Several right groups and political parties have created a solidarity campaign to support the northern Sinai Christians.
“The scene of the forcible displacement of dozens of Egyptian Christian families from North Sinai shows the conditions that the residents of this area have been living in since the area turned into a war zone between the sectarian militant groups and the police and armed forces,” the solidarity campaign said in a statement.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: March 3, 2017