50-year-old Coptic Christian killed by militants in Egypt’s Sinai region. The assailants reportedly followed Gamal Tawfiq, on a motorbike who followed him as he was on his way back to work from his home. Officials have confirmed this was the second incident of a Christian being killed in less than a week’s time.
Gamal who was a teacher at the El-Samran School in the coastal city of el-Arish, was shot in the head by two militants on a motorbike. After the incident, an official claimed that the Islamic State’s affiliate in Sinai was the prime suspect. Few days earlier another Christian Bahgat Zakher, was also gunned down in el-Arish. In January, another Coptic Christian Wael Milad, a merchant, was also killed by militants who attacked his shop.
United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) in its report stated: “Against a backdrop of deteriorating human rights conditions, the Egyptian government has taken positive steps to address some religious freedom concerns, including intolerance in religious curricula and extremism in religious discourse. In addition, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continued to make public statements encouraging religious tolerance and moderation and attended a Coptic Christmas Eve mass for the second consecutive year.
Furthermore, there were notably fewer sectarian attacks against Christians and other religious minorities, and investigations and prosecutions continued for the unprecedented scale of destruction of churches and Christian property that occurred in the summer of 2013. However, other past large-scale sectarian incidents have not resulted in prosecutions, which continued to foster a climate of impunity.”
In March 2016, a USCIRF staff member traveled to Egypt to assess religious freedom conditions and
meet with a range of Egyptian government officials, U.S. Embassy officials, and members of civil society,
including religious leaders, religious freedom advocates, human rights defenders, lawyers, and researchers.”
The report further detailed that: President al-Sisi was the first head of state to attend a Coptic Christmas Eve mass in January 2015. He did so again in January 2016, publicly apologizing that authorities had not yet finished rebuilding churches destroyed in August 2013 and pledging to complete the process within a year.
Following the unprecedented scale of violence against Copts that summer, the Egyptian government found that 29 people died in sectarian-related killings, 52 churches were completely destroyed, another 12 damaged, and numerous Christian-owned properties were destroyed.
At the end of the reporting period, at least half of the destroyed churches had been rebuilt and the other half were still being constructed or repaired. In February 2015, President al-Sisi offered condolences in person to Coptic Pope Tawadros after ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) killed 20 Copts and one Ghanaian in Libya. In October, Egyptian authorities started building a new church, as ordered by President al-Sisi, to honor the slain Copts.”