Visiting the shops, heading to church, going to school – normal, everyday activities. That’s what three of our sisters recently did Egypt, only they have yet to return. It reflects a deeply alarming trend facing Christian women and girls in the country, making them fearful of leaving their own homes. Please pray.
Christian women and girls in Egypt are often targeted for kidnap and forced conversion by extremist groups (illustrative image)
At around 11am, 27-year-old Miriana Boutros from Al Tlihat in Suhaj Governorate left her two children with her mother and headed for the shops. After picking up some milk, Miriana took the bus to Tahta, arriving at 1.15pm. She then disappeared and there has been no word from her since.
The family have looked everywhere for Miriana, but to no avail. A case has been registered with the police, but as so often happens with incidents involving Christians in Egypt, there has been little effort and willingness to pursue it.
“We were such a beautiful family,” says her husband, Kyrellos Fakhry. He and their two children – Jonista (two) and Wana (six) – desperately miss her, as do their church where Miriana is a Sunday school teacher.
"We were such a beautiful family" Kyrellos
Miriana’s disappearance is all too common among Christian women and girls in Egypt, particularly Upper Egypt where Salifist movements (a branch of Islam that can involve extremist elements) are prominent.
Often the aim is to forcibly convert them to Islam and undermine the presence of Christianity in the country. Most at risk are young girls, who are tricked into falling in love with Muslim men – who then mistreat them appallingly. In some cases, the women and girls never return home; in other cases they do, but the harrowing experiences are difficult to overcome.
The tactics employed by Salifist groups – who are protected and funded by legal groups both inside and outside Egypt – extend to the recruitment and training of young men to ensnare vulnerable Christian women and kidnap them. In some cases, the girl is sexually assaulted and filmed, and told to convert to Islam otherwise the film will be sent to their family.
Families sometimes receive a record or video proving the girl's conversion to Islam – which could be fake or true – to persuade the family to stop their search. Many feel they have no choice but to give up. But not all receive any news, so the fate of their loved one remains unknown.
It’s a deeply troubling trend that spreads fear and panic among Christian communities, with women and girls fearful of leaving their own homes.
The dangers facing our sisters in Egypt are reinforced with the recent stories of two young women, both aged 17.
Earlier in the year, Miriana Shahhat – from Hajar Armant village in Luxor Governorate – was on her way to church at 7am. CCTV cameras showed her walking towards Al-Rahman Mosque enroute to church before she then disappeared. The mosque itself has no cameras and extremist Muslims are known to attend it. The case was reported to the police, who were rude and refused to take it any further. There has since been no contact with Miriana.
There has also been no contact with Nada Jerjes from Al Jala’ village in Minya Governorate. She disappeared a month later whilst on her way to school in Samalout.
These stories are a sober reminder of how the everyday lives of Christians around the world can involve danger, simply because they love Jesus. It’s why so many young believers in the Middle East and North Africa feel hopeless, making your support for our Make Hope Last campaign so crucially important.
As you go about your daily activities in the next few days – like popping to the shops, heading to church or going to school – could you pray for people like Miriam, Miriana and Nada? These prompts can be a valuable reminder to pray, whilst helping put us in the shoes of those following Jesus no matter the cost. Thank you!
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