RLPB 396. Egypt: Copts driven from North Sinai.
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 396 | Wed 1 MAR 2017
EGYPT: COPTS DRIVEN FROM NORTH SINAI
plus: Prisoner update: Niger, Sudan
by Elizabeth Kendal
As reported in last week’s RLPB 395 (22 Feb), on 19 February a group calling itself the ‘Islamic State of Egypt’ released a video entitled ‘Kill All Kuffar’ (infidels). It specifically threatened Egypt’s Copts, whom it scorned as ‘worshippers of the cross’. Analysts surmise that ‘Islamic State Wilayet Sinai’ (IS in the province of Sinai) has changed its name to ‘Islamic State of Egypt’ to reflect its intention to spread terror beyond Sinai — indeed, across all Egypt. Its bombing of Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral, in which at least 28 Coptic Christians were killed, was a demonstration of this new strategy.
Critically, the group has also launched a ‘Tracking Down the Apostates of Egypt’ campaign to enlist the support of IS sympathisers across the country. ‘Support the jihadis and report the information of apostates around you, be they soldiers, agents, conscripts, policemen, officers, bank managers, Christian leaders, atheists, crusaders or Zionists who live among you,’ it urges its supporters online. In January five Copts were killed in less than two weeks with their throats cut, whilst money and other valuables were left behind. The focus now appears to be Al-Arish (48km from the Rafah Crossing Point) in North Sinai Province where a string of assassinations has triggered a Coptic exodus.
On 31 January Coptic trader Wael Youssef (35) was shot dead in his grocery shop by masked men. On 12 February Coptic veterinarian Bahgat Zakhar (40) was shot dead as he was leaving his private clinic. On 13 February Coptic labourer Adel Shawk (57) was fatally shot in the head. On 16 February Coptic teacher Gamal Tawfiq (50) was gunned down in a crowded market while on his way to school. On 23 February Copt Kamal Youssef (40) was shot dead in front of his wife and children at his home which the killers then torched. Also on 23 February police found the bodies of Copts Saad Hana (65) and his son Medhat (45) who had been abducted days earlier: Saad had been shot in the head while Medhat had been burnt alive.
The terror is having its desired affect with Al-Arish’s remnant Copts fleeing North Sinai. Middle East Concern reported on 28 February that more than 118 of Al-Arish’s 160 Coptic families have fled the city, most headed for Ismailiya, in Suez Canal city. Some 250 terrified Copts (around 70 families) have sought aid and shelter at Ismailiya’s Evangelical Church. ‘They’ve come running with their children,’ said church deacon Nabil Shukrallah. ‘It’s a very difficult situation. We’re expecting 50 or 60 more.’ Other Copts have found refuge in Saint Antonios Church, in the homes of Ismailiya residents or in rented apartments and youth hostels.
Ominously, as Copts arrived in Ismailiya, pro-IS slogans appeared on the walls at Al-Mamar Square and in the Coptic cemetery. Ismailiya governor Major-General Yassin Taher denounced the graffiti and ordered it be removed immediately. Health Minister Ahmed Emad Eddin has deployed 26 mobile medical clinics to Ismailiya to serve the needs of the displaced Copts.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:
* provide for the displaced Copts seeking sanctuary in Ismailiya so they will receive everything they need; may all who help and serve them be blessed.
* intervene in Sinai to bring an end to the evil that dwells there; may the Sinai no longer be a sanctuary for Islamic jihadists and human traffickers. ‘… but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away . . .’ (from Isaiah 17:12-14, emphasis mine)
ALSO, prayer points from last week based on Psalm 141: 8-10 (ESV)
* May the Spirit of God draw the eyes of all Copts and all Egyptian Christians towards our God; may they ‘seek refuge’ in him. v8
* May Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts (the commander of heaven’s angelic armies), deploy his angels to deliver Egypt’s Coptic Christians from the ‘traps’ set for them, from the ‘snares of evildoers’. v9
* May God intervene for his people; ‘Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while [God’s children] pass safely by.’ v10
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
EGYPT: COPTS DRIVEN FROM NORTH SINAI
On 19 February the ‘Islamic State of Egypt’ released a video entitled ‘Kill All Kuffar’ (infidels), specifically threatening Egypt’s Coptic Christians. The group also launched a ‘Tracking Down the Apostates of Egypt’ campaign, which calls on IS sympathisers across the country for support by reporting the whereabouts of infidels, including ‘Christian leaders … crusaders [Westerners] or Zionists [Jews] who live among you’. Five Copts were murdered in January and seven Copts have been killed in Al-Arish, North Sinai Province since 31 January. More than 118 Coptic families have fled North Sinai with more on the way. Most have found refuge in churches, hostels and homes in Ismailiya, Suez Canal city. The Health Minister has set up medical facilities to meet the Copts’ needs. Please pray for Egypt and its Copts.
NIGER: US Christian Jeff Woodke (55) has lived with, served and blessed the nomadic Tuareg of northern Niger since 1992.
On 14 October 2016, gunmen shot Woodke’s guards and abducted him from his home. They are believed to be affiliated with the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a splinter group of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Nigerian authorities tracked his captors to Mali, where MUJAO is based. No demands have been made and the situation is unclear. In October British media speculated: ‘It’s thought Mr Woodke could be used as a bargaining chip following a dispute over a stolen drug shipment which is said to involve a local government official.’ Jeff Woodke is in an extremely dangerous position. Though he might be a captive to terrorists and traffickers, his life is ultimately in God’s hands. Please pray.
SUDAN: Update to RLPB 392 (2 Feb 2017). Sentenced on 29 January to life in prison for espionage, Czech aid worker Petr Jasek was freed on 26 February having spent 446 days in prison for standing in solidarity with the persecuted church. After meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir used his presidential powers to pardon Jasek and order his release. FM Zaoralek flew out of Sudan with Jasek on 26 Feb. Despite having been incarcerated with Islamic State terrorists who taunted and beat him and, despite losing 25kg, Jasek is remarkably well and profoundly grateful to all who prayed for his release. Voice of the Martyrs testified to Jasek’s enduring faith: ‘From the earliest days of his imprisonment, Petr said many times, “God holds the key to my cell”.’ God has answered the prayers of many — so let us all give thanks! (2 Corinthians 1:11)
Meanwhile, Jasek’s co-defendants — Rev Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) and Darfuri convert Abdulmonem Abdumawla — remain incarcerated in Kober maximum security prison. Please pray.
Elizabeth Kendal is international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).