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Egyptian police declares the stabbing of Christian family “a normal quarrel”

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The incident is part of a trend in Egypt – with authorities turning a blind eye to or downplaying serious attacks and persecution.

Houda was sitting on her doorstep with her two sons in their home village of Al-Nasriyah in Minya, Upper Egypt. A neighbour passed by ordering them to move into the house, “because Christians should not be out on the street”.

A relative told Open Doors:

“After they responded that they were not going to honour his order, he got angry. He ranted that he would ‘kill these dog infidels’. He then rushed home, came back with a knife and started hitting and stabbing them.”

One son Shenouda was stabbed in the belly and needed a partial removal of his intestines, while the other son Ishaq required stitches on six different areas of his body. Houda, was treated for serious head wounds.

The older brother of Ishaq and Shenouda said:

“My brothers balanced between life and death on the intensive care for three days. How can this be ‘a normal quarrel’? It’s an attempted murder!”

In spite of all these details and the testimony of a neighbour who witnessed the attack, the police refused to classify it as an attempted murder.

This despite the fact that the same assailant had previously attacked a Christian teacher,  with a cleaver. The attacker was never punished for this as the teacher was pressured to participate in a ‘reconciliation session’* and drop the charges against the perpetrator.

The Muslim elders of the village are similarly pressuring the family to accept a ‘reconciliation session’ and drop charges against their attacker.  The family have refused, insisting that the attacker should be punished by law. “Impunity of such acts will only encourage further violence,” said a family member.

An Open Doors spokesperson has said:

“This is sadly all too common for Egypt’s Christians. Serious incidents are downplayed by both police and communities. Forgiveness and reconciliation are important, but not at the cost of justice.”

Egypt is number 16 on the World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Egyptian Christians are often victims of social exclusion, and face constant discrimination in areas such as justice, education and basic social services. In rural and impoverished areas in particular, more radical forms of Islam are growing in prominence. The government is making efforts to reverse this trend but with little success so far.

*A ‘reconciliation session’ is a meeting between Muslim and Christian leaders in a village, aimed at settling a conflict in an informal way.  This is used as a replacement of a normal legal procedure and often lets perpetrators of violence against Christians go free without punishment.

Photos © Open Doors International