Kidnapping Christians for Ransom has Increased in Upper Egypt
Stories from Christians Taken Hostage
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East with an ICC Representative
International Christian Concern
The Egyptian Christian community has become increasingly concerned by the growing number of Christians who have been kidnapped for ransom across the country. More than thirty Christians were reportedly kidnapped in the southern province of Minya in the month of October alone. "Minya, a provincial capital with a high Christian population, could also be called Egypt's capital of kidnappings. More people have been snatched in this city and province than in any other place in southern Egypt," Kristen Chick wrote for CS Monitor. While some of the victims were released after their families paid the captors' ransom demands, others remain in captivity. Christians are becoming increasingly angry with what they see as indifference by the police, who have yet to either arrest the kidnappers or free many of those being held.
International Christian Concern was able to speak with the friends and families of some of those who were abducted. Following are some of their accounts.
November 11, Sodfa City
Masked Muslim gunmen abducted Kirolos Adel Mikhail, a 14-year-old Christian boy while he was on his way home from school. "The abductors abducted Kirolos when he was returning from his school to his home," reported Fr. Arsanius Ayad, a local priest. "[They] called his father...and demanded a ransom of 500,000 Egyptian pounds [$72,500] in exchange for the return of his son." Several days later, according to Fr. Ayad, the family was fortunate enough to be able to secure the release of their son after paying a reduced ransom of 65 thousand Egyptian pounds [$9,500].
November 4, Aswan City
David Adel Abdel-Malak Habib, 4 years old, was abducted with the kidnappers demanding 500,000 Egyptian pounds [$72,500] for his return. The family was about to return home after a visit to David's grandfather when his father realized he had forgotten his keys. As David's parents went back inside, they instructed David and his sister Gina to wait for them outside. "They heard Gina crying," reported Sameh Abdel-Malak Habib, an uncle of David. They went to her quickly and found her alone without David. She told them that a car stopped close to them and a veiled woman got out from the car and abducted David and put him in the car quickly and fled."
Adel, David's father, immediately began to search the streets and called for Sameh to join them, but they were unable to find the kidnappers, so he reported the kidnapping to the police. David's grandfather then received a series of phone calls over the next several days demanding a ransom of half a million Egyptian pounds [$72,500] for the release of his grandson. Unable to pay the ransom and fearing for his son's health, who suffers from serious health issues, Adel went to the police again, who promised to search for the boy. Days passed, however, with no news of David's release. The family, having become increasingly frustrated with the indifference of the police, organized a protest in the front of the Security Directorate.
Eight days after the kidnapping, the family received a call from a man in a neighboring city saying that a boy had been found on a road in the desert carrying a card with Adel's phone number on it. According to Sameh, "David told us that a man and his wife...who kidnapped him were holding him in a car in the front of a home in desert and they were hitting him and giving him little food."
October 25, Mallawi in Minya province - Muslims abducted Romany Dahi Khalef, a 22-year-old Christian cab driver, at gunpoint. His family soon received a call demanding a ransom of one million Egyptian pounds [$145,000] for his release. Due to their poverty, Romany's family was unable to meet the kidnapper's demands, even after they agreed to lower the ransom to 200,000 Egyptian pounds [$29,000]. As of November 19, Romany remains in captivity, sources in Mallawi told ICC.
September 26, Abu Khalaka in Minya Province - Hany Noshy Shawky, 32, was abducted at gunpoint by four masked man as he and his father were walking to their farm. "They put Hany in their car and fled," said Michelle Wagih Nagy, a cousin of Hany. "They blindfold his eyes and tied his hands and legs and put him in a deserted place." Michelle went on to describe the brutal conditions of Hany's captivity. "They were insulting, hitting and torturing him. They gave him only three meals during the period he was being held from September 26 to October 3."
The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of 800,000 Egyptian pounds [$116,000] for his release which Hany's family was unable to pay. The family went to the police but they did little to help. Four days later, the kidnappers lowered the ransom to 500,000 Egyptian pounds [$72,500], but the family was still unable to pay this amount. The family pleaded in prayer to Jesus Christ for a miracle and two days later the ransom was reduced to 100,000 Egyptian pounds [$14,500]. Yet, it was accompanied by an assurance that Hany would be killed if the amount was not paid. The family and relatives were finally able to pay the ransom, however, and Hany was returned to his family on October 3.
September 25, Deir Mawas City in Minya Province - Refaat Hanna Ghobrial, 55 years old, was abducted at gunpoint while travelling to work in Mallawi city. The kidnappers demanded two million Egyptian pounds in ransom, which Refaat's family did not have. "When they were calling us," Mina, the son of Refaat, recounts to ICC, "they let us hear the voice of my father on the phone who was crying. They were hitting him, torturing him [...] to force us to pay them the required ransom to mercy my father from this torture."
As the kidnappers' threats to kill Refaat increased, the family started to lose hope. Still, they cried out to God. "All my family and I were crying to God to set free my father from the hands of these bad people," Mina told ICC. On October 1, the kidnappers lowered their demand to 70,000 Egyptian pounds [$10,000]. The family was able to gather the money and pay the ransom. Refaat, however, was not returned after the payment. Two days later, the kidnappers demanded another 100,000 Egyptian pounds [$14,500], which the family was unable to pay.
Finally, on October 5, the family received a call from Refaat saying that he was safe and in a monastery in a neighboring town. The kidnappers, realizing they would be unable to get any more money, had dumped him, still tied up, along a road in the desert close to the monastery. A passerby saw Refaat and took him to the monastery where he was able to call his family. "We thank the Lord so much for the return of my father to us," Mina told ICC.
These stories highlight the danger that Christians regularly face throughout Egypt. The lack of protection supplied by security forces, combined with a growing hostility of Islamists towards Christians following the removal of Mohammed Morsi from the presidency have increased the dangers for Egyptian Christians.
While the country remains in political upheaval, it is important that the basic rights of all Egyptians be protected. The kidnapping of Christians is an urgent issue that must be addressed by the political leadership.
Until there is a serious move made to prosecute those guilty of these crimes and to put a stop to the kidnappings, Christians will remain fearful that they or a family member may be the next to be taken.
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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