Persecution In Egypt
A Martyr of the Cross
Ayman Nabil Labib was 17 years old the day he was martyred.
It was October 16, 2011, a typical school day for the young Christian student from the Upper Egyptian town of Mallawi — that is, until his Arabic-language teacher began harassing him in class.
As he continued to insult Ayman for his Christian beliefs, the Muslim teacher commanded him to wipe the cross off his wrist — a symbol worn by most Coptic Christians. Ayman replied that the cross was a tattoo and therefore impossible to remove, and defiantly added that he was also wearing a cross necklace underneath his shirt.
His response infuriated the teacher, and would set in motion a deadly chain of events. Two of Ayman’s classmates attacked him, and then led a group of 15 other students in a chase when Ayman fled the room in an attempt to get away. When Ayman was finally cornered in a bathroom, two school supervisors appeared and forced the boy into a teacher’s room, where they all continued to viciously beat Ayman to death. His body, as it was taken away, showed signs of strangulation; his head had apparently been hit with a sharp object.
Ambiguous reports clouded the days following the murder. Out of fear of retaliation by the perpetrators of the attack, numerous eyewitness students claimed to be too afraid to confirm the events of that horrific day. And although Egyptian authorities initially charged the two Muslim students responsible for starting the attack, neither Ayman’s teacher, the two supervisors, nor any of the other students who were in the teacher’s lounge that day have been arrested — in fact, all of the adult participants in the crime having seemingly disappeared.
To this day, Ayman’s grieving parents still have no idea why their son was assaulted in such a cruel and inhumane manner, nor who was truly responsible for his death.
Shortly after his funeral, over 5,000 Christians marched through the streets of Mallawi, condemning the murder of the brave young man who has been described as the “Martyr of the Cross.”
He is one more on the growing list of Egyptian Christians whose life has been tragically taken by the violence of persecution.
The State of Christian Persecution in Egypt
- Egyptian Christians, who comprise approximately 10 percent of the country’s total population, have been experiencing a dramatic rise in persecution, oppression, violent attacks, and church burnings within the past year, since former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from office in the wake of ongoing protests.
- Much of the Christian community has responded to the injustice and abuse by staging protests of their own, calling on the Egyptian government to provide tighter security for minority Christians throughout the country. But in a nation where radical Muslims are taking advantage of the lapse in leadership and relaxed law enforcement, sectarian violence has only increased in recent months.
- According to Jonathan Racho with International Christian Concern, “Rape has been used as a weapon of persecution against Christian girls in Pakistan, where Christians are treated as third-class citizens. In the Muslim majority country, Christian girls are particularly vulnerable to these types of crimes because Muslim authorities are reluctant to protect them when their rights are being violated by Muslims.”
- One of the deadliest incidents carried out against a gathering of peacefully protesting Christians occurred on October 9, 2011, where more than 20 Coptic demonstrators were killed by military personnel who ran them down in armored trucks.
- The surge in violence against Christians in Egypt — many of whom have fled the country for safer regions — has ignited concern and outrage throughout the international community. In response to the growing outcry, Egypt’s transitional government recently announced the implementation of a new anti-discrimination law that forbids discrimination on the basis of religion. Unfortunately, this law has not obtained justice for the martyred Ayman Nabil Labib and his family, as his killers continue to live free and without repercussions for their heinous crime.
- Safety. Christians in Egypt are at risk now more than they ever have been before, and sadly, as in the case of young Ayman Nabil Labib, they can face death simply for taking a stand for Christ. Pray that God will place a hedge of safety and protection about each believer who chooses to remain in Egypt.
- Political Stability. As the country continues to move forward in the post-Mubarak era, pray that a fair and stable government will be established, and that it will enforce stricter regulations to help curb discrimination and persecution against minority Christians.
- Church Growth and Evangelism. Fortunately, the Christian church in Egypt, despite decades of suffering and hardship, continues to maintain its vitality and strength. Pray that Egyptian Christians will be emboldened in their faith despite persecution, and that they will have opportunity to share the Gospel with as many Muslims as possible.
- Bible Distribution. Thanks to the efforts of the international ministry The Bible Society, the Scriptures — particularly the audio Bible — has become more accessible than it has ever been within the last 10 years. Pray that this trend will continue, and that The Bible Society will explore new and different ways to get God’s Word into the hands of more Egyptians.
Make Your Voice Heard
Members of U.S. Congress have recently urged President Barack Obama to cut off military aid to Egypt because of the intense persecution against its Christian citizens. As American Christians, we must stand with our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ and make known our support of this initiative:
United States Congress:
Barack H. Obama,President:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC, 20500
PHONE: (202) 456-1111
FAX: (202) 456-2461
Questions for Further Study
- Ayman Nabil Labib was martyred for refusing to remove the cross he was wearing while attending class in a public school. How might an American Christian student (or perhaps your own son or daughter) react to a similar situation in which he or she was discriminated against because of his or her beliefs?
- Although the violence in Egypt has received a moderate amount of media coverage in recent months, the true state of Christian persecution there remains largely unknown even to many throughout the church. What are some of the ways that your local congregation can help spread the word about this critical issue and gain support for persecuted believers in Egypt?
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Timothy 3:12