The only Christian in his army unit was found shot dead in a chair at the office of the military base he was stationed.
On June 24, Bahaa Gamal Mikhail Silvanus, 23, a conscript in the Egyptian Army, was found with two bullet wounds to his chest, and a gun at his feet. Relatives who later saw the body also say there were wounds atop his head, as if he had been struck with a solid object.
The military’s official position is that the Copt committed suicide. Family, friends, and church leaders strongly disagree. They point out that those who commit suicide are rarely able to shoot themselves twice — or first hit themselves atop the head with blunt objects — as well as the fact that Silvanus was a happy man with a strong faith, a college degree in music and plans to enter the monastic life.
“My son was killed by someone. He didn’t kill himself,” said his father, Gamal Silvanus, who had advised his son to finish his military obligation, work for five years to help support the family, then join a monastery. “That was his desire since his childhood,” said Gamal. “So, how can a person who has a good relationship with God be thinking about suicide?”
According to Rev. Mikhial Shenouda, senior priest of Archangel Mikhial: “A person who commits suicide is a disappointed and desperate person, but Bahaa was in a very good spirits. He was smiling always. He was keeping the word of God.”
A friend of the deceased Christian, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that Silvanus had confided to him that he was regularly pressured by other soldiers in his unit to convert to Islam or else: “He told me that the persecution of the fanatical Muslim conscripts in the battalion against him had been increased the last days, and they threatened him with death that they would kill him if he wouldn’t convert to Islam.”
Although the Egyptian military and media have said little about this incident, hundreds attended his funeral.