Mysterious Death of Bishop Sparks New Concerns Among Egypt’s Christians

Bishop Epiphanius Discovered Dead in a Monastery Before Sunday Mass

07/31/18 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –  International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the bishop of Anba Makar Monastery, Anba Epiphanius, was found dead, lying in a pool of blood, on the morning of July 29. The monastery is located in lower Egypt’s village of Wadi al-Natroun. According to various media reports, security officials not authorized to speak about the case reported that the bishop’s head and back were injured. It appears that he was attacked while on his way to attend matins before Sunday Mass.

According to a press statement by Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, “The ascetic and scholarly honorable Father, His Grace Bishop Epiphanius, Father of Saint Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, passed away in his home at an early hour this morning. And due to the shadowy circumstances surrounding the details of his departure, official investigations by formal parties have commenced and current questioning is now underway regarding this matter. We await what the results of these investigations will reveal.”

Copts United reported that Bishop Epiphanius’s body was discovered when one of the monks collided with the body during his walk. While the weapon has not yet been discovered, an initial report states that he was killed with a sharp object through the back of the head. The monastery remains closed due to the investigation.

Bishop Epiphanius was a Coptic Orthodox scholar whose work is well known within the Egyptian Church. The Coptic Orthodox Church’s spokesperson published on Facebook, “The Church continues to be proud of her recent martyrs who continue to witness for the Lord Jesus every day – whether the martyrs that were killed for their service of the word of God and evangelism, or the martyrs that were killed for their faith in Christ.”

According to a published quote by Father Shenouda, a monk at the monastery, the authorities have ruled out an act of terrorism. However, concerns remain given that the mysterious circumstances of Bishop Epiphanius’ death took place within the context of worsening persecution for Egypt’s Christians.

“The event is strange and new in the history of the Church and the history of monasticism,” explained one church leader. “Two days ago, [there was] a non-Christian attempt to infiltrate the monastery, and it was handed over to security. At the same time, the door was left open [to the] monastery and this is new to the policy of the monastery daily on Saturday and Sunday.”

A local priest added, “[This] is a powerful blow to the Church and it is possible that people [now] fear to go to the monasteries again. The only place that should be safe in Egypt, has become unsafe.”   

“This is a strange and new and special incident in a place like the monastery of Anba Makar,” worried Bassam, a Coptic Christian. “We pray that the truth appears and ends longing.”

An investigation led by Major General Alaa Eddin Abdel Fattah, Director of the Security Department, is ongoing. Local sources report that the scene of the crime was inspected for 14 continuous hours and the identity of the perpetrator has not yet been identified.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Summer is a traditional time for Egypt’s Coptic Christians to travel to monasteries to pray and worship. The mysterious death of Bishop Epiphanius causes much concern among the Christian community on whether it is safe to do so. Many recall the 2017 Minya bus attacks, during which gunmen attacked Christians traveling to the monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor. It is well documented how Egypt’s Christian community are disproportionately the victims of targeted acts of violence. Incidents such as this pose a significant barrier to Christians feeling safe within their own places of worship.”

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

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