In the summer of 2018, a ludicrous string of events involving Egyptian blasphemy laws and mob rule cul­minated in the upheaval of an entire family. Egyptian authorities arrested Abd Adel Bebawy, a Coptic Christian, after he posted an image of God, the angel Gabriel, and a verse from the Quran on Facebook.

Ironically, the real criminal action followed Bebawy’s arrest. His arrest immediately caused local Muslims to launch into a frenzy of mob violence directed at Christians. They used Bebawy’s action as an excuse to riot against Christians, attacking Christians and homes across the region.

“The Muslims came from all of the surrounding villages around Minbal… They all came with anger and stoned the Christian houses,” one witness told ICC.

Today, Egyptian Christians are enjoying a moment of relief from the bloody, violent persecution they endured in previous years. From 2019 into 2020, mob violence against Christians in Egypt has declined as a result of a greater police presence on the streets.

But even though the streets are quiet now, the Church can­not rest easy. A stealthier breed of attack crouches beneath the surface. While violence against Christians has declined, the fear that more accusations may follow has only heightened.

The state’s presence is everywhere. Even in places less volatile than Upper Egypt, such as Cairo, a strong security presence is felt across the streets. The increased police pres­ence in the streets has deterred mob formations, but increased fear of state monitoring.

“We cannot speak. Egyptians, we have no free speech,” a church elder lamented.

The same security personnel who protect churches from attacks are also keeping track of church attendees. The situation puts Muslim-background believers at risk. If caught attending a Christian service, they could be accused of apostasy or blas­phemy. Blasphemy offenders can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Christians are torn over whether the situation is a blessing or a curse. Maher, a 32-year-old living in a village subordinate to Minya City, expressed. “My village is very calm and quiet. There is no chaos! The situation of Christians improved.”

Read more at International Christian Concern

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