By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News) - A Coptic Orthodox priest has been killed in the coastal city of Alexandria in northern Egypt amid ongoing concerns about Islamic extremism in the country, rights activists confirmed Monday.
The priest, Arsanious Wadid, was reportedly stabbed to death on a youth outing on the seaside promenade in Alexandria.
His attacker, described as a 60-year-old Muslim man, initially asked him for assistance. He then was seen stabbing him in the neck, said Christians with knowledge about the situation.
Wadid, who served at a local parish, reportedly died while being treated for his injuries. Local police detained the alleged assailant, who was not immediately identified.
The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Alexandria said, “Father Wadid was a martyr.” And the head of Al-Azhar – the country’s most influential institution of Sunni Islam - reportedly condemned the attack in a statement.
Archbishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, also expressed outrage about the killing. “In clerical attire in a public space with no one else attacked, it can be safely assumed that [Father Arsanious Wadid] was targeted as a priest. With a suspect in custody, we wait to see whether investigations rule this to be an ‘individual event’ or part of a known wider phenomenon,” he added in published remarks.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which confirmed the April 7 killing on Monday, urged Egypt’s authorities to take the criminal investigation seriously.
CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas, told Worthy News that he noted “with appreciation the condemnation of his murder” by the country’s most influential institution of Sunni Islam.
However, “While welcoming the perpetrator’s arrest, we call on the Egyptian authorities to ensure a thorough investigation of this case. Anyone complicit in this murder should be held to account and receive a sentence appropriate to this appalling crime,” he added.
“Ensuring accountability will assist in combatting residual impunity surrounding religiously motivated crimes,” in the Muslim nation, Thomas stressed. “More must be done to address the levels of societal hostility and to promote mutual respect and equal citizenship.”
The priest killing comes amid ongoing concerns about Islamic attacks against Christians, who comprise nearly 16 percent of the population in Muslim-majority Egypt, advocacy experts say.
More than 140 Christians have been murdered since 2015 by radical Muslims and militant groups like Islamic State, according to several estimates.
“The persecution of Christians in Egypt commonly occurs at a community level. And in Upper Egypt, where ultra-conservative Islamic Salafist movements are active in rural communities,” explained Christian advocacy group Open Doors.
LAW ENFORCEMENT QUESTIONED
While “Egypt’s government speaks positively about the Christian community,” its rhetoric isn’t put into practice, Open Doors warned.
“The lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks. The dictatorial nature of the regime means Christians feel unable to speak out against these practices,” Open Doors stressed. “The hindrances come from state restrictions and communal hostility and mob violence.”
Last week’s killing of the Coptic priest also came while churches and Christian groups reported difficulties when trying to construct new buildings.
Additionally, “Christians from a Muslim background face enormous pressure from their families to return to Islam. The state also makes it impossible for them to get any official recognition of their conversion,” Open Doors added.
Egypt ranks 20th on the Open Doors annual World Watch List of 50 nations where it claims Christians suffer the most persecution for their faith in Christ.