Protestant Pastor Killed In Egypt after Threats

Monday, December 5, 2005

Monday, December 5, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife) -- Egypt's Protestant Christian community remained on edge Sunday, December 4, amid reports that one of its pastors, Ezzat Habib, was killed after he was run down by a taxi in Cairo following threats from the country's feared security police.

The incident happened October 23 but details have just emerged, reported Compass Direct, a news agency investigating the plight of persecuted Christians. It said 58-year old Pastor Habib was immediately taken to a local hospital where he underwent surgery the following morning but died later that day.

His son Ibram Habib and a friend who accompanied him crossing the street in Cairo’s Matereya district were also injured when the taxi suddenly pulled into the street and hit them from behind.


The friend, who asked to remain unidentified, reportedly suffered from a broken leg, while Ibram Habib received severe bruising in his legs and continues to suffer from pain in his lower back.

Ibram Habib and his brothers, George and Amir, said their father’s death was no accident, Compass Direct reported. Egyptian Christians subjected to security police interrogations are frequently threatened that they will be killed or injured in contrived car accidents if they do not cooperate with police demands, the news agency said.

The Habib family reportedly faced "perpetual threats and physical persecution" from neighbors and the State Security Investigation (SSI), Egypt’s national security police, over the past two years for their role in hosting the Beit-El (House of God) church in Giza, an outlying suburb of Cairo.


After "much soul-searching" in the wake of his oldest son Hany’s death, Pastor Habib, who also worked as a tailor, founded a church in his home in 1997, Compass Direct said. For six years members the Beit-El congregation apparently worshipped in relative freedom a as the only church in El-Harem, a Muslim-majority neighborhood in Giza.

But problems began in June 2003 when after receiving complaints about the church’s activities from neighbors, two soldiers came to investigate the congregation of 50. Several raids and arrests followed while the pastor was detained and physically and sexually abused by police, his sons told Compass Direct.

After a final police raid on July 30, 2003, in which a 72-year-old Orthodox priest, a 73-year-old man and Amir Habib and his two cousins were arrested, the congregation decided to suspend all activities for a year. After resuming the church services in July 2004, harassment continued. The pastor allegedly received threats while his apartment was stoned and neighbors chopped two trees in the garden, one four floors tall, smashing his windows.


Members of the congregation, which now numbered only 15, were also harassed, including young women who on their way to the church meetings were verbally abused by neighbors and had buckets of water thrown on them, Compass Direct said.

On September 19, only a month before their Amir Habib was stabbed three times by a teenager after he and his brother George escorted George's fiancée and another young woman home from the evening church meeting. Despite their father’s death and continued harassment from police and neighbors, the Habib brothers said they will continue their house fellowship.

"After the death of my brother, my father started to ask God what He wanted him to do," Amir Habib told Compass Direct. "He started Beit-El because he believed that is what God wants. Also in that neighborhood there is no other church from any denomination. Because of that we are going to keep going."

Human rights groups suggest the incident is the latest in a series of violent attacks against Egypt's minority Christians amid concern about growing Islamic extremism in the country. (With reports from Egypt)

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