A COPTIC priest was stabbed to death in Cairo on Thursday of last week.
Fr Samaan Shahata Rizkallah was in the city collecting humanitarian aid for his parish in Beni Suef, Upper Egypt, where he was a priest at St Julius’s. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that he was chased and stabbed repeatedly by a man wielding a meat cleaver, who also imprinted a cross on the priest’s forehead. Fr Beymen Moftah, of El-Malak church, in Matay, was also attacked, but is reported to have survived his injuries.
Bishop Astafanous, of Fashn, Biba and Samasta, described the alleged killer as an “extremist” with a criminal record, naming him as Ahmed-El Sonbaty.
“Today is a day that brings anger, and I am not apologetic for that anger,” the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, said on the day of the attack. “While recognising that anger may often open a path to hatred or resentment, there are times at which it is a natural expression of a human emotion, and reaction to a sense of deep injustice.”
The incident raised many questions “that need to be addressed at every level of Egyptian community and leadership”, he said.
“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? Why is his assailant immediately deemed mentally incapable without professional diagnosis; and why, if he is incapable, and a known violent criminal, is he left in the community with weapons within his reach?”
He drew attention to the work carried out by Copts for the wider Egyptian community, and to other attacks, including child kidnapping, forced conversion, individual targeting, bus attacks, and church bombings.
“Crime cannot be totally eradicated, but at least it needs to be properly investigated, prosecuted, and shown to be a violation against the whole state and not just its immediate victim,” he said. “This anger is not void of forgiveness, but cries out for accountability and justice.”
CSW reports that the persecution of the Christian community in Egypt has worsened in recent months: there have been more than 100 deaths since December 2016 in a series of attacks that have been claimed by Islamic State. The latest report of the United States Commission on International Freedom warned that “The inability to successfully prosecute those responsible for past violence against Copts and other religious minorities has continued to foster an atmosphere of impunity.”