Egyptian priest praises Muslim support of threatened Christians


By Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A
spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Church praised local Muslims for helping
embattled Christians after a series of Islamic State attacks in Sinai.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic
Catholic Church, said Christians must differentiate between ordinary Muslims
and extremists.

“Ordinary Muslims are kind
and try to help however they can —  they’re
often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals,”
he told Catholic News Service March 3, as Christians continued to flee Egypt’s
North Sinai region.

Father Greiche said the attacks
had affected only Coptic Orthodox Christians, but added that Catholic churches
and schools in Ismailia had offered
shelter to Orthodox families with help from Caritas.

Father Greiche said Islamic State
militants were now “strongly entrenched” in North Sinai, having been
allowed by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organizations to use tunnels from
the Gaza Strip.

He added that civilians were
better off not staying in the surrounding military zone, which was now “under
attack all the time,” but said he believed the Egyptian authorities were
committed to protecting Christians against the Islamist insurgency.

“You can never do enough
against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at
a time no one can foresee,” the priest said. “But while no country
can be fully secure, I think there’s will on government side to act decisively
against these constant attempts to destabilize Egypt.”

In Britain, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos
said from December through February, 40 Coptic Christians had been murdered in Egypt.

“These horrific attacks have gone largely
unnoticed by the international community, but Copts continue to suffer tragic
violations daily,” he said in a statement Feb. 28. “The common
denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives
brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are

Bishop Angaelos noted that dozens of “Egyptian civilians, soldiers and police officers have
lost their lives as a result of this wave of terrorist activity.”

The 200,000-member Catholic
Coptic Church has 14 dioceses in Egypt, including pastoral services for Latin,
Melkite, Armenian, Chaldean, Maronite and Syrian Catholics.

The much larger Coptic Orthodox Church,
dating its origins from a first-century mission by St. Mark, makes up at least
a tenth of Egypt’s population of 82.5 million and has more than 100 churches in
the United States.

News reports said that, during
the Sinai attacks, some victims had been beheaded and burned alive, while at
least 1,000 Christians had fled to Ismailia and Cairo after death threats were
daubed on their homes.

Addressing a Feb. 27 Cairo youth
gathering, Egypt’s president, Gen.
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, condemned the Sinai attacks as “a cowardly
plot by evil people intended to undermine national unity and confidence in the
state.” He said he had instructed the defense, interior and intelligence
ministries to “resist all attempts to sabotage stability and security.”

However, in a March 1 statement,
Amnesty International said the government had “consistently failed to
protect Coptic residents of North Sinai from a long-standing pattern of violent

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