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Suspect Arrested Amid Warnings Against Sectarian Violence

04/08/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – An Egyptian Coptic Orthodox priest of Alexandria was stabbed several times in the neck and died en route to the hospital on April 7. Arsanious Wadid, age 56, served at the Church of the Virgin Mary and St. Paul in Moharm Bek district.

Egyptian authorities arrested the 60-year-old assailant shortly after the incident. The man’s identity and motives are currently unclear, pending a police investigation. Coptic Christians comprise approximately 10% of Egypt’s population, which is primarily Muslim. The nation’s Muslim population is currently celebrating Ramadan, while the Christian minority is in the Lenten season preparing for Easter.

Jeff King, International Christian Concern’s (ICC) president, said, “While many details about the incident remain unclear, it does highlight the vulnerability that many Egyptian Christians face, particularly during the religious holidays of Ramadan and Easter. It is normal for Christians to face increased persecution during these seasons, and such an incident could inspire further acts of extremism. Unfortunately, within the Egyptian context, it is common for the attacker to be accused of having a mental illness rather than addressing underlying extremist motivations. This trend is not only a disservice to authentic religious freedom, but also increases the marginalization of those with genuine disabilities.”

In response to the murder of the Coptic priest, Ishak Ibrahim, a journalist, and researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, commented in a Facebook post on the cultural climate for Egypt’s Christians. He shared, “Despite the decline of sectarian tensions and attacks in recent years… the roots of discrimination and extremism still exist and are hidden, waiting for an opportunity to reveal themselves.”  Ibrahim added that historically in cases of religious violence against Christians, “if the killer has no history with extremist groups, [the authorities claim] that they are mentally ill or unstable. But in recent incidents of priest killings, the death penalty was imposed.”

The incident was recognized as a potential ignition point of further extremist violence directed at Christians. Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb, who is the head of al-Azhar (the highest Sunni Islam institution worldwide), condemned the attack and warned that incidents such as Priest Wadid’s murder can incite “religious wars.” However, the institution has, on several previous occasions, encouraged the targeting of Christians, particularly during Ramadan.

As one Christian previously explained to ICC, “Most of al-Azhar’s curricula, which are taught to the students at the Azhar Institutes, incite violence and extremism, create terrorism, incite enmity for and violence against infidels (non-Muslims), and encourage enmity for Christians and even incites their murder… (the curricula) contains books and ideas that are considered a good environment and a breeding ground for terrorists and extremists, in every sense of the word, whether morally or psychologically or intellectually or virtually.”

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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.