10/11/17 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Father Hegoumen Samaan Shehata, a priest at St. Julius Al-Akfehasi Church in Al-Fashn, Egypt, was killed by a knife-wielding assailant during his return to a church following a pastoral visit to a family. A second priest, Father Beyman Moftan from El-Malak church in Minya, was also injured. A suspect with a history of violence is in police custody. Video footage shows that the assailant chased Father Samaan, stabbing him repeatedly, while bystanders looked on.
Coptic Bishop Angaelos released a statement, saying, “This incident makes us once again ask so many questions. Why should a priest not be able to walk safely down a street, especially a suburban street in Cairo? Why should he be chased by a man brandishing a deadly weapon and have no one run to his aid; in actual fact, everyone was running away. Why, when he lay drenched in his own blood did the ambulance service not arrive for over an hour, and then not treat him? Why, when the police finally arrived, and he lay dead, was a crime scene not secured and forensic evidence not collected to enable a robust and serious investigation?”
According to multiple eyewitnesses interviewed on the scene by Alaqbat, Father Samaan could have been saved despite the ambulance arriving late. However, medical personnel refused to treat him until the police arrived.
The Coptic Orthodox Church’s spokesperson shared a Facebook post, saying, “Father Samaan, you left us in pain but blessed are you because you now have the greatest of garlands. [To the terrorists] You do not understand that the blood of the martyrs is the arm of the church. [To the authorities] Repeated incidents of terrorism clearly demonstrate that things are being treated very wrong… Even the security follow-up is deeply flawed. Many of the incidents of terrorism have not been prosecuted, and when some perpetrators are arrested, we wonder why when some of them are released.”
This is only the latest episode in a series of attacks against Egypt’s Coptic community. In February, the targeted murders of Christians in El-Arish and lack of police protection forced the entire Christian community to flee. Last month, mob violence targeted Christians in the village of Tawa despite a local police presence.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The news of this attack is deeply unsettling. We pray for Father Beyman’s speedy recovery as well as for the parish and family of Father Samaan. Violence toward Egyptian Christians has spiraled out of control, causing them to live in fear of their own countrymen. The situation is unacceptable. Sadly, there is no justice when it comes to crimes against Coptic Christians in Egypt. The authorities have a responsibility to protect all citizens regardless of religious identity. This responsibility includes properly investigating and prosecuting attacks against Christians. Until these incidents are taken seriously by authorities, tragically these kinds of attacks will continue.”