Forgotten in Libya: Christians Abducted by Islamic Extremists Still Missing
By Todd Daniels, Sandra Elliot and ICC’s Egypt Representative
06/18/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern)
February 15, 2015. The world was shocked as a video entitled “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross” showed the brutal execution of 21 Christians on a beach in Libya. The images of the 21 men dressed in orange jumpsuits spread quickly across the world. This video was a vivid picture of the brutal tactics that the Islamic jihadists of ISIS, or the so-called Islamic State, will use in their campaign to exterminate Christianity in the areas that they control.
What many have forgotten is that the 21 are not the only Egyptian Christians who have been abducted by Islamic militants. Over nine months have passed since the abduction of four other Egyptian Christians in Libya by Islamic State affiliates, Ansar Al-Sharia. Three brothers and a cousin are missing, and the anxious families have received no word about them. This is the situation for many of the relatives of missing Christians. International Christian Concern (ICC) is working with at least eight families in similar situations. While they can imagine the possible fates of their beloved sons, husbands and fathers, no one can be sure of their location or if they are alive.
Gamal Matta Hakim, Raafat Matta Hakim, Romany Matta Hakim, and their cousin Adel Sedky Hakim disappeared on August 25th when ordered off a microbus near Sirte, Libya. The bus was stopped by Islamic militants who took the four Christian men from the bus and forced the driver to continue with the remaining three Muslim passengers.
Wagih Matta Hakim, brother of three that were taken and cousin to the fourth, has repeatedly reached out to government officials who have by and large ignored his requests. “None of them has helped us since the kidnapping of my brothers,” Wagih said in regards to the Foreign Ministry of Egypt.
“There isn’t any positive step from them to solve our crisis or to reassure us.” In a recent interview, Wagih explained to MCN how the Egyptian government paid the family pensions in January and February and then stopped. They only received two months pension out of the nine months that the men have been missing. The situation now seems grave for the Hakim family as they sit and wait in silence for any information regarding their loved ones.
“I don’t know what to say…”
Shenouda Samy Adly Attia, 31, is a father of two and has been missing since September 15, 2014. His wife, Jacqueline Samir, 26, along with her brother in law, have sought out help in vain from the foreign ministry. Sadly, as more and more time passes, any possible investigation becomes more complicated.
“My son Samuel, 5, asks me always, ‘When [will] my father come back to us? I miss him so much.’ I don’t know what [to] say to him,” Jacqueline told the ICC.
Attia was kidnapped in Misrata, Libya by extremists from Ansar al-Sharia. The group has been a consistent threat in Libya in the recent past and was deemed a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council in November 2014 (Al Arabiya). The group is at large in the region and has repeatedly expressed its dedication to the destruction of the Christian world. Foreign workers like Attia and the Hakim brothers are some of the many Christians that have been targeted by Ansar al-Sharia.
Mina Shehata Awad Hanna, 26, is another who was kidnapped by the extremists in Libya en route to Egypt, his home. There has been no information to follow his disappearance. His family expresses their desperation to know of his circumstances.
There seems to be minimal hope for those waiting for answers. The trek of foreign workers in Libya back to their home countries has been almost impossible for Christians to make thus far. Many have already been executed by the extremists while others are never heard from again. Eight men, including those mentioned in this article, are known to be missing at this time from Egypt. The families’ yearning to know their fates has warranted no responses from any governing figure either in Egypt or Libya.
Civil society groups like the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms have campaigned for greater assistance from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry for those “Forgotten in Libya” but so far little action has been taken and families remain without answers.
“We ask God to show us the fate of Mina,” Sayeda Hanna Massad, Mina’s mother told ICC, “If Mina is alive and existent we ask God to bring him back to us and if we make sure that he was martyred, we will be happy because he kept the faith and he died on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and his fate will be in The Heaven.”
ICC’s Suffering Wives and Children fund helps to support families who have lost their income as a result of situations like these. We are currently working with the families to help care for their needs in both the short term and for the future.
To learn more about this fund and how you can support families like these, visit: Suffering Wives and Children