Seven pilgrims—including a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy—were shot to death, “just because they were Christian,” to quote Pope Francis during a prayer afterwards. Over 20 were left injured with bullet wounds and/or shards of broken glass.
Pictures of the aftermath posted on social media reveal “bodies soaked in blood and distorted faces of men and women.” In one video a man can be heard crying, “The gunshot got you in the head, my boy!” and repeatedly saying “What a loss!”
Three buses full of Christians were returning from St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Minya, Upper Egypt. After the first and largest bus passed the ambush point, the terrorists emerged in black 4x4s and opened fire with automatic weapons, on the second bus; six pilgrims were injured, including a small child. Fortunately the bus driver managed to escape and speed away, at which point the Islamic terrorists fired on the third and smallest bus as it approached. After the driver was killed, they surrounded and opened fire on all sides of the stalled microbus.
The bus contained 20 people—14 adults and six children—all from one extended family that had visited the monastery to baptize two of their children. After they ceased fire, the terrorists opened the hatchback and shot any living adult males in the head. Surviving women and children were shot in the legs or ankles. A total of seven were killed.
In a video, one of the female survivors who was shot in the legs remembers only that a hail of gunfire suddenly exploded on all sides of their bus; by the time she could register what was happening she saw her brother-in-law’s brain splattered on her lap.
Another woman, after realizing that her husband and daughter had been killed, begged the jihadis to kill her too. They said: “No, you stay and suffer over your husband and daughter.” Then they shot her in the ankles leaving her paralyzed. A separate report quotes another survivor who says the terrorists told her, “We will kill the men and children and leave you to live the rest of your lives in misery.”
Virtually all of the surviving women have “had a nervous breakdown of what they have seen and they are in the hospital.”
The local Coptic Christian bishop, Makarious of al-Minya, also confirmed that “The pilgrims were killed in such a savage and sadistic way, as if they were enemy combatants, when they were just simple Christians come to get a blessing from a monastery.”
Reactions among Egypt’s Christians echoed those from earlier incidents involving the terroristic slaughter of Christians: “Oh God, these children were students in my school!” wept one local teacher. “I can’t imagine they are dead now!”
The day after the attack the Egyptian government created more questions rather than answer them by announcing that it had killed 19 terrorists believed to be complicit in the November 2 attack. As one report says, “With the suspects now dead, it is impossible to confirm whether they were indeed involved in Friday’s attack. Fear continues to permeate the Christian community in Egypt.” Another report says that government photos of the purported slain terrorists “appear staged.”
This latest attack is a virtual duplicate of another attack that occurred on Friday 26, May 2017: Islamic gunmen ambushed other buses full of Christians returning from the same St. Samuel monastery; 28 Christians—ten of whom were children, including two girls aged two and four—were massacred.
According to accounts based on eyewitness testimonials, the terrorists had ordered the passengers to exit the bus in groups; “as each pilgrim came off the bus they were asked to renounce their Christian faith and profess belief in Islam, but all of them—even the children—refused. Each was killed in cold blood with a gunshot to the head or the throat.”
Discussing the recent massacre with Bishop Makarious, a television interviewer said that “this is a duplicate of the same event and same place that happened a year and five months ago—how can this be? What does it mean? Makarious responded, “Honestly, those best positioned to answer this question are the state authorities…. I add my voice to yours and ask the same questions.”
“That the same exact attack occurred in the same exact place only means that, despite all the talk, protecting Egypt’s Christian minority is not on the government’s agenda,” Magdi Khalil, Egyptian political analyst and editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International, told Gatestone by phone.
Despite Sisi’s many conciliatory and brotherly words to the nation’s Christian minorities, they have suffered more under his rule than any Egyptian leader of the modern era. In December 2017, a gunman killed 10 worshippers inside a church in Helwan. In the December before that, 29 Christians were killed during a set of twin attacks on churches. On Palm Sunday, April 2017, the twin suicide bombing of two churches killed nearly 50 and injured over a hundred.
Whereas it may be understandable that Sisi cannot eliminate terrorism, which operates surreptitiously and in the shadows, evidence indicates that the government itself participates in the persecution of Egypt’s Christians. According to the World Watch List (2018), Egyptian “officials at any level from local to national” are “strongly responsible” for the “oppression” of Egypt’s Christians. “Government officials,” the report adds, “also act as drivers of persecution through their failure to vindicate the rights of Christians and also through their discriminatory acts which violate the fundamental rights of Christians.”
Coptic Solidarity, a Washington D.C.-based organization dedicated to the human rights of Egypt’s Christians, condemned the November 2 attack in a press release:
Coptic Solidarity reiterates the message published after the May 2017 attack, that the Egyptian government has [again] failed to protect its Coptic minority. Coptic Solidarity strongly maintains that this violence is not perpetrated by foreign terrorists as the Egyptian government would like the world to believe, but is homegrown, one created by a culture of hate and impunity within Egypt. Consequently, Coptic Solidarity holds the Egyptian government fully responsible and calls for a transparent investigation of these attacks, and to institute serious measures to prevent future attacks. The minimum response expected from president El-Sisi is to dismiss the head of State Security and the governor of Minya, as a clear sign of holding officials accountable. Furthermore, given the government’s continued failure to protect the Copts, Coptic Solidarity vigorously calls for an independent inquiry by the UN to evaluate the Copts’ situation and to recommend necessary measures to alleviate their increasingly perilous situation and to avoid repetition of the tragic situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria.
“Our lives have turned into hell,” said one man, seemingly capturing the mood of many Egyptian Christians. “I’m a Copt and I curse myself every day for bringing [Sisi] to power. He failed us. He sold us.”
“Who can accept these incidents?” asked another Christian discussing the recent monastery massacre. “Every day, there are many incidents harming Christians. We must leave our land and get out of here. I’m so exhausted… it’s so dull and dark these days.”