Egyptian Christians Forced to Leave the Sinai Peninsula
The largest Christian community in the Arab world lives in Egypt. They are known as Copts, most of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, while a smaller number are members of Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches.
Ever since the conquest of Egypt by the Islamic armies in the seventh century, Egypt’s Copts have undergone waves of persecution, some of which were very intense. During the nineteenth century, their condition somewhat improved during the British colonial rule. Some highly-educated Lebanese Christians moved to Cairo, and helped in the Revival of Arab culture, through the publication of Arabic-language journals and newspapers. The well-known daily Al-Ahram, is one of the contributions of Christians made to the land.
However, ever since the Revolution of 1952 that toppled King Farouk, the plight of Egypt’s Christians worsened during the successive rule of Presidents Nasser, Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak. The “Arab Spring” Revolution, while promising freedom for all citizens of Egypt, ended with the election of Muhammad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood organization. That was followed by the Army returning to power, with General al-Sisi, assuming the presidency.
According to Open Doors Organization, “President al-Sisi’s authoritarian style of government has to some extent restored the rule of law in Egypt. In recent years, this has changed, however, causing historical Christian communities to be targeted as well. There is a small but growing community of Christian converts (Muslim Background Believers, MBBs), who bear the brunt of persecution, most often from family members. Believers are often kicked out of their homes when their Muslim families find out about their faith.”
The worst persecution is going on in the Sinai Peninsula. In this part of Egypt, ISIS (known also by its Arabic acronym, Da’esh) has found a fertile soil for its activities. Lately, it has been waging war against the Egyptian Army; and causing havoc to the tourist industry in the southern of Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. On 6 November, 2015, they managed to bring down an airline carrying 224 Russian tourists returning to St. Petersburg.
Having declared the Peninsula had become a Province of the Caliphate (ISIS), the Jihadists announced that all Christians must leave. Early in 2017, they began a campaign of murdering Christians in the northern part of Sinai, at El- ‘Arish.
In preparing this article, I went online and gathered information from various online sources. The following report was filed from Ismailia, a city close to El- ‘Arish.“Christian families and students fled Egypt’s North Sinai province in droves Friday after Islamic State killed the seventh member of their community in just three weeks.
‘A Reuters reporter saw 25 families gathered with their belongings in a church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, and church officials said 100 families, out of about 160 in North Sinai, were fleeing. More than 200 students studying in Arish, the province’s capital, have also left.
“Seven Christians have been killed in Arish between January 30 and Thursday, February, 2. ISIS, which is waging an insurgency there, claimed responsibility for the killings, five of which were shootings. One man was beheaded and another set on fire.
“I am not going to wait for death,” Rami Mina, who left Arish on Friday morning, said by telephone. ‘I shut down my restaurant and got out of there. These people are ruthless.’ Sectarian attacks occur often in Egypt but are usually confined to home burning, crop razing, attacks on churches and forced displacement.”
On Monday, 6 February), the Christian Satellite Station, “Al-Hayat,” telecast a heart-rending report about the martyrdom of a Christian worker who was in a mini-bus returning home to El- ‘Arish. The vehicle was stopped by ISIS warriors and asked about the religious faith of the passengers. One was a Copt by the name of Hana, an abbreviation of Youhanna (John). He was forced to get out and was told to confess the Shahadah; he refused and one bullet hit him; still he wouldn’t obey their command. Just before they riddled his body with more volleys, he lifted his right arm and showed the tattooed cross on the back part of his hand, confessing with all his might, his faith in Jesus Christ! The Shahadah is: “I confess that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.” By repeating it, a person becomes officially a Muslim.
“Al-Hayat” TV, added that members of ISIS had obtained a list of the Christians to be evicted/murdered, and their addresses. Unfortunately, it must have been obtained from some Muslim neighbors. This tragic phenomenon replicated what had happened two years ago, when the Christians of Mosul were ordered to leave or accept Islam. Their homes were marked with the Arabic letter “N” (inverted crescent with one dot in its midst.) Muslims designate a Christian with the Qur’anic name of Nasrani, (pl. Nasarah.) It’s a pejorative term, that Arabic-speaking Christians detest, proudly using the word, “Massihi” which is equivalent to “Christian.” It was the Muslim neighbors of Mosul’s Christians who designated the exact addresses of their Christian neighbors!
How can any normal human being murder in cold blood, a person whose faith differs from his own? Unfortunately, the sacred and authoritative Islamic texts, do sanction such horrific acts! Jews and Christians who did not embrace Islam, and refused to pay the humiliating Jizya tax, were subject to death!
“Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden — such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book — until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.” Qur’an, Surah 9, Ayah 29 (Translation by A. J. Arberry)
“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Yusuf Ali)
Note: “The People of the Book” designates Jews and Christians who had received God’s revelations, but altered them to erase a supposedly prophecy that referred to the coming of an Arab Prophet, whose name would be, Muhammad.