Coptic Christians in Egypt are being forced to flee their homes after increasingly violent and direct attacks from ISIS that have killed seven since January.
Hundreds have fled El-Arish, a coastal city in Northern Sinai, Egypt following threats and attacks from violent jihadists targeting Coptic Christians in the region.
Christian Today spoke with Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK.
‘We’re seeing an increase in targeted attacks against the Christian community, they are no longer sporadic,’ said the bishop, who described the ‘displacement of scores of families from places that they’ve lived for generations’.
ISIS have previously called on militant affiliates to target ‘infidel’ Christians. Now, Angaelos says, ‘lists of churches and individuals have been released…to be targeted by those who believe in the cause’.
Bishop Angaelos said: ‘This isn’t a hypothetical situation. People are making decisions not just about the wellbeing, but the safety and security of their families.’
He added that ‘This doesn’t change the overall resilience we’ve seen in the Coptic community. They’ve been facing attacks for months now, almost on a daily basis.’
Recent weeks have seen Coptic Christians shot in the street, stabbed in their sleep at home and burned to death by ISIS militants. The community represent about 10 per cent of Egypt’s majority Muslim populaiton.
‘The community remains resilient and strong, but they’re crying out for a sustainable situation of law and order that allows them to be safe in their homes,’ Angaelos said.
He said that there has been action to help those affected at a national level, but that this is frequently hampered at the regional level, where local enforcement fails to act competently, or ‘turns a blind eye’ to what is going on.
Angaelos said: ‘We can’t safeguard anyone from all criminal activity. But we do need to hold people accountable. Through the intelligence services, law enforcement and judiciary we can hold perpetrators account, and make sure others are deterred by a robust system of law and order, that protects citizens and their country, not just a certain community.’
Angaelos said that this was the ‘same principle’ of displacement that took forced Christians to flee Mosul in Iraq, albeit on a smaller scale at the moment. It remains unclear what the long term situation will be, he said, though he expects intensified attacks on wider targets to come.
He said the attacks of radical Islamists have not changed the Christian relationship with Muslims at large, and that there has been an ‘outpouring of sentiment from the wider Muslim community, assuring Christians that not all Muslims are like that’.