Taken Without Warning
Christine Talaat Sharobim, a young college graduate, lived with her family in Khaga City, located in the New Valley Governorate of Egypt. Recently graduating with her Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceuticals, Christine was planning on returning to school at the College of Pharmacy in Cairo. On Monday, July 14th, she submitted her paperwork for Graduate Studies and stopped by a small store to purchase a bottle of mineral water.
After her father received the call, he reported her abduction to the local police station near the university in Omrania. No investigation has been formally launched. There has been no contact between the kidnappers and the family. Gamil Samuel, Christine's relative, told ICC that as of August 21st she still had not been heard from.
A local church near where her parents live spoke to an ICC representative. Father Bishoy Muharraqi, the bishop of Saint Mary's Church in El Kharga, told ICC, "I and the people in the church were very sad when we heard the news of her kidnapping. She was a good servant of the church and had a pure heart." The church, as well as the family of Christine, is appealing to the security forces to do their best to investigate the matter and bring Christine home safe.
"I and all the people of the church plead to God for the safe return of Christine to her family soon," Fr Bishoy told ICC.
A Trend in the Making?
This past year, Egypt has seen a rapid increase of kidnappings of Christians from their homes and communities. Christians throughout the Governorates in Egypt fear that these kidnappings are becoming a new and regular form of persecution the church must now face. Most frequently held for ransom, Christians are generally abducted in plain view, forced into cars by armed gunmen, and taken to a location until the ransom is paid. In some cases, the kidnappers are afraid of being caught, and release their victims. In other cases, even after the ransom is received, the victims are murdered.
Young girls such as Amira Hafez Wahib, who was taken right outside of her church, are usually kidnapped with the goal of receiving money from the family or forcing the girls to marry and convert.
As these kidnappings continue, the police force continues to show little efforts to help. A report from the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance estimates that more than 550 Coptic schoolgirls have been kidnapped since the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011. Most of these kidnappings, when targeted at young women, are often met with violence. Forced conversion and erasure of the Coptic minority tattoos on their wrists with acid are just two examples of the persecution these girls face.
These kidnappings don't just target young Christian girls, though. Other common victims of kidnapping are local Christian store owners in and throughout Cairo and other Egyptian governorates. Even men are taken from their stores, on the roads, or at church and held at gunpoint. They are beaten and threatened while their kidnappers demand ransom for their safe return. Their stories are becoming a familiar tale throughout Egypt, and the lack of response from the government is a striking reminder that the government has not protected them from the persecution they face.
ICC has documented nearly 70 such cases from 2014 alone, and the vast majority of them have seen very little response from authorities.
What is the response?
As the world witnesses an era of extreme persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East, daily kidnappings are constantly overlooked. Girls, like Christine, who have a bright academic future ahead of them are taken from their homes, their churches, and their communities without warning or cause.
While Secretary of State John Kerry rightly condemns the imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and praises the release of Meriam Ibrahim from captivity for her faith, cases like Christine's are continuously overlooked. While the persecution of Christians is broadly condemned, the lack of attention in the media and from the international community continues to passively feed a world content on allowing this persecution to happen.
There have been no steps so far by either the local or state police to aid in Christine's rescue. As her family sits patiently in their home waiting for their daughter's safe return, the world remains silent in the case of a girl that hardly anyone will ever hear about. If the world continues to grow silent on the glimpses of persecution it does see, then there is little hope for the persecution that happens every day in these small communities throughout the Middle East.
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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