On the 27th of September, the US Embassy in Cairo made calls to pastors and religious leaders of different denominations informing them of threatening messages they received. This time their target was specific: foreign women affiliated with the church, specifically those who are working or volunteering with churches. On Friday, the Embassy confirmed it with an official warning to citizens and a statement on the web.
It is not yet clear what the motivation behind the threat is. Coming on the heels of the worldwide protests against the recent film denigrating Islam, it may be another chapter of response directed against the US. However, the fact that women and work in churches are being specifically targeted could suggest a more nuanced motivation. I wrote about this recently as seen in the post “The Man Behind the Film: The Dilemma for Christians.”
On May 7th, 2011 three churches in Imbaba were attacked by Salafi groups with the claim that one of the churches, Saint Mina, was holding a female Christian convert to Islam against her will. This was not the first incident in Egypt in which Coptic leaders or churches had been blamed and attacked for ‘kidnapping’ women who had converted to Islam. Of course no women were found inside the beleaguered churches.
Though forgotten in the media, Islamists in Egypt have kept the issue alive. On August 1, 2012 a new Egyptian Jihadist group called Jund Al Sharia (Soldiers of Islamic Law) released a press statement with their demands to the Egyptian government. One of their five demands and also most relevant to these last threats was this: “The release of Muslim sisters from the monasteries of the Crusaders.”
So now, a year after the burning, and two months after this group announced the demand to release these women that are supposedly being held, there has been credible and serious threats reaching the ears of the US Embassy by direct calls and or Internet messages.
In addition to this renewed threat against US citizens by Islamists, this month several Copt families have been displaced in Sinai in the town of Rafah. Appeals have been made to the authorities to renew the rights of these Christian families but historically the Egyptian government has been slow to respond as was seen in the recent and similar events of Dahshour and Amareya. In parallel, the trial against Alber Saber is continuing, causing a continued rise of fear among the Christian population in Egypt.