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June 6, 2017 | by  | in News |
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IS kill 29 people in attack

Coptic Orthodox Christians across the world were left feeling “helpless” after the latest Islamic State (IS) attack in Minya, Egypt.

The gunmen, claiming to be security officers, waved down the bus filled with Copts travelling to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor, south of Cairo. After some members of the group refused to recite the shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith, the gunmen opened fire. They killed 29 men, women, and children and wounded approximately 25.

It follows an escalation of IS attacks targeting Copts, with more than 100 killed since December.

Salient spoke with Father Bishoy Mekhaiel, the parish priest at the Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Auckland. He voiced frustrations at the “nonsensical” killing of Copts in Egypt. “With machine guns, killed innocent people, what kind of people would do something to little children? For the sake of what?”

“We are in the 21st Century, we’re not in the 4th or 6th Century, times characterised by war and that kind of thing.”

Some Copts have expressed frustration at a perceived lack of action and protection from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for the Christian minority. Mekhaiel said “people will always be annoyed […] that there is no persecution for those people who committed the crime.”

Mekhaiel expressed that el-Sisi was “doing what he can, but what can the Government do?”

Conversely, a Coptic VUW student who spoke with Salient said that there were a range of views as to how el-Sisi should protect Christians.

The student believed the Egyptian Government has responded inadequately to cries for protection; “even when they do offer support it’s quite low support.”

Mekhaiel pointed to the practical difficulties of preventing an attack like this one. Unlike the previous attacks, there is a suggestion of new vulnerability. The latest was carefully staged by organised militia and took place in the vast western desert.

The student said that, in pointing to the difficulties of control, Mekhaiel was right — “but, in saying that, you can definitely up security, especially when the people ask, just in case something happens around a big holiday or event,” such as the attack on a Coptic church on Palm Sunday.

“It’s when the Government ignores calls like that you feel quite upset.”

Salient reached out to the Egyptian Ambassador, Tareq Mohy El-Din Abdul Hamid Al-Wesemy, who declined to comment.

The student described the attacks as “confronting, in the way that it’s your own people being killed. It’s not an event that’s a natural disaster, it’s a specific targeting of a group which is very avoidable so it’s ugly.”

For Mekhaiel, the answer lies in prayer. “Our protests will be through prayers, not only to support those affected by barbaric action, but we pray that the lord will enlighten the eyes of those who kill Christians.”

A further frustration for the student is the lack of media coverage on the attacks. “This kind of thing doesn’t get covered in the news because people expect this happens 24/7 in countries that aren’t Western. It’s still just as significant.”

“To contrast how much coverage [the Manchester bombing] received both bloody, similar numbers, both horrific, the same group [IS], but one receives a lot more media attention than the other.”

“It dehumanises the people that it happened to because it implements the thinking that these people are used to it. [People think] it’s not that significant because it happens more often — but the pain, the grieving, the suffering, the loss, it’s all the same.”

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