There have been calls for tolerance between Muslims and Christians amid rising extremism and kidnappings.
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- Egypt's Christian minority, also known as Copts, has become increasingly concerned by the growing number of Christians who have been kidnapped, across the country, Christian activists said Tuesday, November 26.
More than 30 Christians were reportedly abducted in the southern province of Minya last month alone.
Local observers say the situation is especially serious in Minya, a provincial capital,
which has been dubbed the "kidnapping capital of Egypt".
Most Christians are kidnapped for ransom, but there have also been reports that believers were abducted by Islamic hardliners, including girls who were forced to marry Muslim men.
International Christian Concern (ICC), a major advocacy group, cited friends and families of some of those who were abducted as saying that even children have been targeted.
On November 11 in Sodfa City, Masked Muslim gunmen reportedly abducted Kirolos Adel Mikhail, a 14-year-old Christian boy while he was on his way home from school. "The abductors abducted Kirolos when he was returning from his school to his home," said Arsanius Ayad, a local priest.
"[They] called his father...and demanded a ransom of 500,000 Egyptian pounds [$72,500] in exchange for the return of his son," he added in remarks distributed by ICC.
Several days later the family was secured the release of their son after paying a reduced ransom of 65 thousand Egyptian pounds [$9,500].
Earlier on November 4 in Aswan City - David Adel Abdel-Malak Habib, 4 years old, was abducted by kidnappers demanding 500,000 Egyptian pounds [$72,500] for his return, Christians said. Unable to pay the ransom, and police allegedly unwilling to investigate, the desperate family received a call eight long days after the kidnapping, from a man in a neighboring city.
He said he had found the boy on a road in the desert carrying a card with Adel's phone number on it. "David told us that a man and his wife...who kidnapped him were holding him in a car in the front of a home in desert and they were hitting him and giving him little food," said Sameh Abdel-Malak Habib, an uncle of the child, in published remarks.
This were no isolated incidents, according to ICC investigators. On October 25, Muslims abducted Romany Dahi Khalef, a 22-year-old Christian cab driver, in Mallawi in Minya province -at gunpoint. His family reportedly received a call demanding a ransom of one million Egyptian pounds [$145,000] for his release.
"Due to their poverty, Romany's family was unable to meet the kidnapper's demands, even after they agreed to lower the ransom to 200,000 Egyptian pounds [$29,000]. As of November 19, Romany remains in captivity," ICC quoted its sources as saying.
On September 26, Hany Noshy Shawky, 32, was abducted at gunpoint by four masked man in Abu Khalaka, Minya Province, while he and his father were walking to their farm, Christians said. "They put Hany in their car and fled," said Michelle Wagih Nagy, a cousin of Hany. "They blindfold his eyes and tied his hands and legs and put him in a deserted place."
In a statement, distributed by ICC, she added that the kidnappers "were insulting, hitting and torturing him." They "gave him only three meals during the period he was being held from September 26 to October 3," she added.
The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of 800,000 Egyptian pounds [$116,000] for his release which Hany's family was reportedly unable to pay. "The family went to the police but they did little to help."
However the "family pleaded in prayer to Jesus Christ for a miracle and two days later the ransom was reduced to 100,000 Egyptian pounds [$14,500]," ICC told BosNewsLife.
"It was accompanied by an assurance that Hany would be killed if the amount was not paid. The family and relatives were finally able to pay the ransom, however, and Hany was returned to his family on October 3."
Others were also targeted including on September 25 in Deir Mawas City, Minya Province, where Refaat Hanna Ghobrial, 55, was reportedly abducted at gunpoint while travelling to work in Mallawi city.
The kidnappers reportedly demanded two million Egyptian pounds in ransom, which Refaat's family did not have. "When they were calling us," said Mina, the son of Refaat, "they let us hear the voice of my father on the phone who was crying. They were hitting him, torturing him [...] to force us to pay them the required ransom to mercy my father from this torture."
As the kidnappers' threats to kill Refaat increased, the family started to lose hope. Still, they cried out to God, the family said in a statement. "All my family and I were crying to God to set free my father from the hands of these bad people," Mina explained.
On October 1, the kidnappers lowered their demand to 70,000 Egyptian pounds [$10,000] and the family was able to gather the money and pay the ransom. Refaat, however, was not returned after the payment. Two days later, the kidnappers demanded another 100,000 Egyptian pounds [$14,500], which the family was unable to pay.
Finally, on October 5, the family received a call from Refaat saying that he was safe and in a monastery in a neighboring town. The kidnappers, realizing they would be unable to get any more money, had dumped him, still tied up, along a road in the desert close to the monastery, Christians said.
A passerby reportedly saw Refaat and took him to the monastery where he was able to call his family. "We thank the Lord so much for the return of my father to us," Mina added in published remarks. .
The stories "highlight the danger that Christians regularly face throughout Egypt," ICC told BosNewsLife. "The lack of protection supplied by security forces, combined with a growing hostility of Islamists towards Christians following the removal of Mohammed Morsi from the presidency have increased the dangers for Egyptian Christians," commented
Todd Daniels, ICC's regional manager for the Middle East
He said that while the country remains in political upheaval, "it is important that the basic rights of all Egyptians" be protected.
"The kidnapping of Christians is an urgent issue that must be addressed by the political leadership. Until there is a serious move made to prosecute those guilty of these crimes and to put a stop to the kidnappings, Christians will remain fearful that they or a family member may be the next to be taken."
Christians comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of 85 million.