Two Christians Returned by Kidnappers in Delga
Stories from Christians Taken Hostage
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East with an ICC Representative
International Christian Concern
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 26, a nightmare for two Christians from the village of Delga came to an end. Just a few hours after the two Christians had been safely returned to their families, International Christian Concern's (ICC) representative in Egypt spoke with Father Abram Abou El-Yameen, the priest of the St. Mary and Anba Abram Monastery in Delga, and with two relatives of the men to learn the details of their ordeal.
Early Sunday morning, November 24, a Christian young man named Nasser Samir Shaker, better known as Issa, a 26-year-old father of two, and his cousin, 24-year-old Emad Demian Shafiq were guarding their harvest of hot peppers in a store close to their home. Just one week before in the same area, a store of hot peppers and peanuts owned by a Christian man named Saeed Suleiman was broken into and ransacked after midnight while Saeed was at home. The value of the things stolen from this Christian's store was more than 75,000 Egyptian pounds [$10,500].
The situation was about to become very personal for Issa and Emad. While they were watching the store, some men who appeared to be police officers were walking through the neighborhood and asked Issa and Emad what were they doing out at such a late time. Issa and Emad told them they were guarding their store. The men asked to see their identity cards. The two had left their identity cards in their home, which was on the same street. Not wanting any problems, Issa and Emad asked them to allow them to go home and bring their identity cards, but the men refused. Instead, as their cousin recounted for ICC, they grabbed them and put them into a car, blindfolded them, and drove away.
Someone on the street saw this incident and went to Issa's father and told him the police took his son and nephew because they didn't have their identity cards. Immediately, Issa's father took the identity cards of his son and his sister's son and went to the police station to show them to the officer. When he arrived at the station, the officers at the station told him they did not take his son or nephew and there had not been any officers in the area. The two men had vanished from the street.
Later that day, Samir Shaker received a call from the cell phone of his son. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of a half million Egyptian pounds [$72,500] for the return of his son and nephew. Samir could hear cries from Issa in the background as the kidnappers demanded he pay the ransom.
While Issa and Emad were being held, "the kidnappers were torturing them and beating them and insulting them," Father Abram told ICC.
Once the media learned of this incident and that there were men impersonating police officers, the police started to investigate. The police went throughout Delga and detained a number of suspects on Monday, November 25.
On Tuesday, November 26, in the early morning hours, the abductors released Issa and Emad because they thought that the police may find them. The kidnappers felt danger once they learned about the crackdowns from the police. The positive active response from the police is a change from most previous kidnapping reports, where the police have reportedly done very little to track down the suspects.
Today, the families of Issa and Emad are relieved that they have been returned, but for many others throughout the city the nightmare continues.
In fact the nearly 15,000 Christians in Delga have been left without any protection and the results have been horrific, as ICC documented this summer. More recently, throughout the province of Minya kidnapping of Christians has been on the rise. ICC has shared the stories of some of the more than 30 reported cases from just the past month.
Speaking of the situation in Delga, Father Abram said, "Christians in Delga are endangered every day here. Some Muslim gangs who stay in the mountains are terrorizing the Christians in Delga and stealing Christian properties. The police can't reach these gangs because they are armed and spread in the mountain."
"The Christians are targeted in Delga," Father Abram continued. "Many Christian families left Delga because of these attacks on them."
The stories of those who've left Delga behind are tragic. One example is the family of Iskandar Tus. Iskandar was a 65-year-old barber in Delga, killed in August by a group of Islamists angry at Christians after the military violently broke-up demonstrations in favor of deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Iskandar's son spoke recently to ICC about the family's dire situation. Iskander's wife and children have left Delga. The family has been scattered throughout Egypt and is trying to find a way to restart their lives in a new place, and without the provision of their father. "We cannot return to Delga again," one of his sons told ICC. "We gave a report to the police with the names of those who killed my father. They threatened us that we will be killed if we ever come back to our homes."
Because of threats like these, and the reality of what people like Issa and Emad are facing, many Christians have left Delga and have little hope of returning.
For those who do remain in behind, the level of fear is extremely high, a Christian father of two young boys told ICC from Delga on Tuesday, November 26. "We are targeted here and there isn't any protection of us," he continued, "I'm afraid that my son can be abducted for ransom one day. We are afraid even to let him play with the other boys in the street in front of our home."
The story of Issa and Emad presents a small glimmer of hope as the police took action to pursue those who took them hostage. Unfortunately, there are many more still in need of help, there are many families struggling to find peace in the midst of so much tragedy.
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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