By Sarah Kearney
06/22/2017 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Early this year, an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula declared that they would eliminate the Christian minority, claiming that Egyptian Christians were the extremist group’s “favorite prey.” In the first several of months of 2017, masked men staged a series of attacks targeting multiple Christian families. The murderers went down a kill list and shot eight Christian men who lived out their faith in El-Arish, Egypt.
Such terrorization drove hundreds of Christians from their homes in El-Arish to places like Port Said. Unfortunately, many have struggled to survive after leaving their homes and businesses. The widows of these murdered men are especially vulnerable because they no longer have their providers with them. We located three of these widows, Zia, Abia, and Haneen, to listen to their stories and determine how we could best serve them.
On January 30, a Coptic Christian trader named Bahir was fatally shot by two masked gunmen in a grocery store in front of his wife, Zia. Widowed with two young children and one on the way, Zia was left with no way to support herself and her family. She and her children moved in with her parents.
On the morning of February 16, a Coptic trader named Kadeem and his wife, Abia, were selling slippers at the market in El-Arish when two masked men approached them and shot Kadeem dead in front of his wife. The couple had six children together and, after her husband’s murder, Abia and her children moved in with her husband’s family. She later moved into an apartment with her children.
On the night of February 23, Sayyid, a Christian plumber, and his family were having dinner when two masked men broke into their home and shot him in the head in front of his wife and children. After killing Sayyid, the intruders burned his home and fled. Sayyid’s wife, Haneen, was left with five children to care for and no way to support herself and her family. After her husband’s death, Haneen and her children fled El-Arish.
While there have been eight such murders, we initially targeted Haneen, Abia, and Zia for assistance. Our representative spoke with each woman to determine how to best assist them and they all wished to open a women’s clothing store.
With the help of our donors, we were able to help all three women and their children. We provided a start-up inventory for each widow, including abayas (cloaks), sleepwear, bras, underwear, pajamas, pants, dresses, skirts, and bags.
Zia, Abia, and Haneen were very thankful and expressed their gratitude:
Zia said, “Firstly, I and my children thank ICC so much for visiting me last March, providing us with the food package, encouraging us and standing [with] us. Secondly, we thank ICC for making this good project for us; really, it will help me to earn sustainable income for our living expenses. I thank ICC once again for everything, for helping us and standing with us in this hard time, we appreciate that so much. May God bless ICC and bless its service.”
Abia said, “My children and I thank ICC so much for standing with us and making this project for us, we appreciate that so much. May God bless you.”
Haneen said, “Thank you ICC for making this project for me. It will help me to earn money to support my children. I appreciate [you for] making this great project for us so much. You are the only one who has stood with my children and me in these hard circumstances. We appreciate [you] helping us, May God bless you.”
Zia, Abia, and Haneen are a testament of faith in suffering. Each of them asked for prayer for their children, themselves, and for their clothing stores to be a success. Zia also asked us to pray for her sick mother and Abia specifically asked for prayer for her brother-in-law, Abbas, as he struggles with the loss of his brother.