Egypt: Kidnapping of Christian girls continues unabated
At least four young Coptic Christian girls and one married woman have disappeared from their homes since mid-May 2020. A US-based advocacy organization - Coptic Solidarity is calling on Egypt’s president to step in and take a stand against these rampant kidnappings.
There are no hard figures available, but the US-based advocacy organization suggests that hundreds of Coptic Christian girls and women have been reported missing. Sometimes nothing is heard from them again and sometimes they re-appear, announcing a conversion to Islam.
A recent case involves a married Christian mother of three daughters. Ranya Abd al-Masih, 39, of north Cairo, who disappeared on April 22nd. A few days later a video emerged in which she said she had converted to Islam and did not want to have contact with her family. Her family and church community don’t believe she converted out of free will but was abducted and coerced. The response from authorities, they say, has been discouraging.
Disappearance of Coptic girls and women, lured or blackmailed, is a recurring phenomenon in Egypt. A man who claimed to be part of an abduction ring once told World Watch Monitor (WWM) the Islamist group to which he was connected was paid for each kidnapped girl. Some of the money sometimes would to go police to buy their indulgence.
“[The kidnappers] put them [the girls] under pressure and threaten them to convert to Islam,” he told WWM. “Once they reach the legal age, a specially arranged Islamic representative comes in to make the conversion official, issue a certificate and accordingly they change their ID.”
Constant fear of abduction takes a psychological toll, especially in rural areas, according to the Open Doors World Watch research unit. “Females can feel in these areas as though they cannot leave the house by themselves, and they need constant company by male relatives to protect them,” according to a research unit report on the gender dimensions of religiously motivated intimidation. “There are also reports that Christian girls are lured into marriage: these girls are often under-age and come from vulnerable families. Traditional practices do not help in this regard: Early marriage is part of the norm in more rural and traditional societies,” the report says.
Coptic Solidarity is calling for more robust protections for Christian girls and women. It proposes laws that would forbid minors to change religion and that would require an independent panel to verify whether a conversion by an adult is free of coercion.
Meanwhile, one of the Coptic girls reported missing recently was returned to her family last week.
That President Al-Sisi will take appropriate measures to come against the perpetrators of these kidnappings and justice would be carried out.
Pray that the girls who have gone missing will be restored to their families.