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Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East with Sandra Eliott and ICC's Egypt Representative
International Christian Concern
On July 17th, ISIS jihadists in Libya announced via Twitter the capture of 3 "crusaders" in Sirte. Three Christians, one from Nigeria, one from Ghana and one from Egypt were now the captives of the Islamic terrorist group.
Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, especially the Libyan affiliates, are infamously known for kidnapping travelling workers of the Christian faith. In February, 21 Christians were martyred, 20 of them coming from small towns in Upper Egypt. Then again in April, more than 30 Christians from Ethiopia and Eritrea, were violently executed for their faith in Jesus.
ISIS has shown very little hesitancy to broadcast their actions, in this instance they posted pictures of the ID cards to confirm the identities of Bekhit Nageh Efrak Ebeid from Egypt, Sekyere Kofi Frimpong from Ghana, and Aedola Ibrahim from Nigeria.
When word reached the family of Bekhit in Upper Egypt that the militants had published his ID card on social media, their fears for a son and brother Libya were realized.
Yes, I Am a Christian
Bekhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid, a 20 year old worker from the village of Kom Baddar in the Sohag Province of Egypt was among the three recently taken by militants. He was discovered when the fighters checked his passport and saw that his name was a Christian name. When asked if he believed in Jesus, the 20-year-old answered yes.
"There were thirteen passengers on the same van with my brother," Bekhit's brother, Romany told International Christian Concern (ICC). "The captors left them and took my brother only because he is Christian, he was targeted because [of] his faith in Jesus Christ."
Bekhit was travelling to Libya to work and save money for his upcoming marriage. Having originally planned to fly from Sudan, Bekhit had to change his plans for financial reasons. He had assured his family that he was safe when traveling in a van full of Muslims, many of whom were also from Upper Egypt.
The family's fears of his traveling by land were well justified. Since the fall of long-time authoritarian leader Muammar Ghadaffi in 2011, Libya has become a breeding ground for Islamic extremists who are operate freely and Christians have repeatedly been targeted. It is also a prime route for human traffickers moving migrants from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean coast where they are just a few hundred kilometers from reaching Italy.
"Our village is [a] poor village and the majority of the villagers work in the fields cultivating the farmland," Pastor Youssef Suleiman of Faith Church in Kom Baddar, told ICC. "A great deal of Christian young men left the village and traveled abroad to seek their living because there isn't any work here in the village."
This trip was the fourth time that Bekhit had traveled to work in Libya, his longest stay on a previous trip was two years. He had returned home just four months ago, but an opportunity opened up and friends and family had ensured him that it would be safe to travel, Nageh, Bekhit's father told ICC.
The news of Bekhit's kidnapping came first from a call he made to his relatives living in Tripoli. After explaining to them that he had been captured, a militant took his cellphone from him. When news reached Bekhit's family in Egypt they immediately called his cellphone. " Romany, Bekhit's older brother told ICC, "A Libyan person answered the call and told me there are three options: paying a ransom, or converting to Islam or killing, and asked me to choose one of the three options." Since this time, the family has not heard again from the ISIS affiliates, and there is some doubt of whether the original conversation was an actual captor or some other person.
The Pain of Not Knowing
The Ebeid family has suffered a great deal in the past two weeks. Egyptian news outlets have misreported on Bekhit ever since his kidnapping. False reports of ransom prices and his death have spread throughout the country. The truth remains that no ransom price has been set, the family has not successfully contacted the militants and Bekhit's conditions are not known.
Bekhit's father, Nageh, recently told ICC, "We are very worried about Bekhit and our worry, anxiety and fears have been increased after Daash had declared kidnapping him and published a picture of him on the Internet."
The latest information allegedly came from fellow Ghanaian captive, Kofi Frimpong Sekyere. On July 26th, Kofi phoned Nageh to tell him of his own release and the situation of those still being held by the militants in Libya. He said Bekhit should be released within a number of days and that he was in good shape and of good faith. This should naturally come as a relief, but the stakes are too high for any real comfort. It is unclear if this was a legitimate call and signals that Sekyere has been set free or if it was just another exploitation of the family.
"We are afraid that his fate will be the same fate of the 20 who were beheaded," Nageh continues, "I appeal the government officials to intervene quickly and release my son; my son didn't commit any [crime] to take captive, he traveled to Libya to seek his living."
In past cases of Egyptians kidnapped in Libya, the Egyptian government has been limited in its ability to act to secure the fates of their citizens. Impunity is a grave danger and a real fear for the waiting Ebeid family. In all this, however, they have come to find comfort in the comforter himself.
Fr. Semaan Saad, the priest of Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox church in Kom Baddar village told ICC, "I know Bekhit very well, he is [a] very humble, meek, religious, simple and polite young man, and he has a good relationship with God. He is [a] very hard working man. He refused to stay here without work, he belongs to a poor family and had to travel to Libya and endangered his life to find work there to help support his parents and build his future. All the Church's members and I ask God to release him from the hands of those bad captors."
Mar Girgis Church is joined by Christians across the country and around the world who are praying for Bekhit and others to be safely released from those who have taken them captive.
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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