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Egypt’s silent epidemic of kidnapped Christian girls

Women often bear the brunt of the persecution of Christians. World Watch Monitor has noted that “women’s lives are all too often characterised by invisible and lifelong hardship. However, women from minorities (in this case Christians, but not excluding others too) have their difficulties made worse by the compounding effect of the exploitation of their socio-economic and legal inequalities.” As Orthodox Christians who believe firmly in the God-given dignity of every human being, we must stand up against the abuse of women everywhere.

“Egypt’s silent epidemic of kidnapped Christian girls,” by Lela Gilbert, Jerusalem Post, December 5, 2018:

Egypt’s Christian community faces dangers that most other Egyptians needn’t fear. Threats of violence during church services, attacks on buses filled with innocent pilgrims and their children, and assaults on successful Christian businesses happen all too frequently.

But only occasionally do they appear in the Western media.

Meanwhile, mass kidnappings, such as the Boko Haram abductions in Nigeria, are widely reported. Even accounts of young Pakistani Christian girls’ abductions have been published from time to time.

However, an ongoing nightmare in Egypt has gone virtually unnoticed for years. Victims fall silent. Authorities turn a blind eye and religiously-motivated kidnappings are extremely difficult to document.

But the truth is that Christian women in Egypt face an epidemic of kidnapping, rape, beatings and torture.

Innumerable girls and women vanish forever, and even if they are somehow rescued, their stories are thought to be so shameful that they’re hidden as dark family secrets. Meanwhile, doctors quietly repair internal damage and “restore virginity” to abused teenagers and twenty-somethings. Priests try to protect family reputations when the girls return.

Meanwhile, the devastated survivors will never be the same.

The attacks vary – some happen randomly, when a vulnerable female is spotted walking alone on a sidewalk. Other [sic] are plotted by Islamist consortiums, who pay kidnappers as much $3,000 per girl. The assailants rape the victims, hold them in captivity, then demand that the terrified young women to convert to Islam – often violently abusing them until they surrender.

These crimes are particularly common in villages outside Egypt’s major cities, where radicalized thugs act with impunity, sometimes forming raging mobs and leaving behind a trail of blood, ashes and broken people.

World Watch Monitor, an international Christian publication, interviewed a man who had been once an abductor himself. He explained, “A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christians’ houses and monitor everything that’s going on. On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around [the girls].”

Once a victim is delivered to a radical Islamist organization, he explained, her price tag, payable to the kidnappers, is big money in a cash-strapped country like Egypt. The kidnappers are happy with their share of the loot. However, their radical Islamist handlers have a “higher” aim: to strengthen Islam and weaken Christianity.

The tactics vary. Some of the girls are flattered and romanced by their captors. A starry-eyed young woman falls in love and is delighted when her mysterious lover, who promises to convert to Christianity – if she’ll run away with him. All too often when she does, she is never heard from again. Other young women are abducted off the street….

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