Coptic Christian Killed During Attack on Village in Upper Egypt
As Maher Nassif, 46, a civil servant and livestock farmer, attempted to defend his home as assailants shot him and slit his throat. His son watched helpless, hiding beneath a bed. The attack followed a dispute between a Coptic woman and the driver of a touk-touk (3 wheeled taxi) on August 6 in a small village outside Minya. Several Coptic men came to her aid and the dispute seemed to end.
However, several hours later, a group of Muslims arrived at the village church and started pelting congregants with rocks as they left the building, according to villagers. The Copts responded in kind. Several people suffered cuts and bruises, and some of the windows of the church building were broken. The following night Muslim men carrying long knives and automatic weapons began to congregate and the attack began. Compass Direct News reports that Muslims shouting “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” attacked, looting homes and businesses on the edge of the town and setting some ablaze. Villager Melad Thabet, a 25-year-old teacher, said he spent the night of the attack listening to gunfire and the sound of people “weeping and screaming in the village.”
According to Thabet, the leader of the attackers is a cousin of the man in the original dispute and also a lieutenant stationed in the village. It is reported that he had been hit in the face with a rock during the conflict. Also, false accusations have been heaped up against Christians and police claim that a Coptic man began the conflict by screaming insults and throwing rocks at a mosque and that Christians burned it down, though that scenario does not match the evidence according to the Christians. It is apparent that false rumors were spread around the surrounding Muslim communities inciting the attack.
According to the Egyptian newspaper Watani, seven Muslims were arrested because of the incident, as well as one Coptic man. Some fear he was arrested to give officials a bargaining tool to force the Copts into a “reconciliation meeting” agreement with unfavorable terms. Compass reports that while the concept of such reconciliation meetings are allegedly meant for parties to come to amicable solutions outside of court, and are based on traditional tribal meetings, in reality the meetings are used to deny Copts their rights when they are attacked, according to human rights activists in Egypt. Indeed, it is reported that such a meeting took place on August 9 between Muslims and Christians involved, both of whom apologized for the incident. However, the identity of the man who shot Maher Nassif and slit his throat is known, yet no arrest has occurred.
Nassif was buried on Monday, the service taking place outside of town because of tension in the village. Christians say that tensions, in general, have risen between Christians and Muslims since the January revolt in Cairo and some villagers have been fleeing to other areas, though some hesitate to flee because their travel must take them through predominantly Muslim villages. Thabet said he doesn’t think the village will be safe again.
Lord Jesus, we call on You to comfort Maher Nassif’s son who must surely be stricken with grief and the trauma of seeing his father so brutally murdered. Grant wisdom, courage and faith to the Christians that they might respond with both prudence and godliness in the face of their anger and fear. Shelter them under Your wing and use their testimonies to soften the hearts of Muslim neighbors to hear the Gospel and follow You. Amen