On Oct. 5, World Watch Monitor reported, “A 16-year-old Coptic Christian girl kidnapped on 28 June to be ‘converted to Islam, then married off or sold,’ was released and returned to her family on 30 September after police found her and arrested her kidnappers in a city just outside Cairo. Marilyn is from a village several hundred kilometres south, in the governorate of Minya.”
Marilyn’s story is wonderful news. It vividly illustrates, however, the troubling report recently published by Clarion Project, documenting abductions, forced marriages, and conversions to Islam imposed on young Egyptian women.
It also provides a former Islamist kidnapper’s candid testimony, describing about how such crimes are carried out. “‘A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims,” he explains. “They keep a close eye on Christians’ houses and monitor everything that’s going on. On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around [the girls] . . . ‘”
The kidnapper portrays how the promise of romance is often used to entice the girls into trouble. A charming young Muslim man flatters and flirts with a Christian girl, telling her that he’s in love with her. He often promises to convert to Christianity.
The young girl is captivated. Her lover seductively reveals his spontaneous plan for them to run away together. She agrees. And that’s when she is captured.
This is precisely what happened to Marilyn — and to hundreds of other young women.
Eventually, the victim’s parents receive a terrifying phone call, or a letter demanding an impossible ransom, or — perhaps worst of all — the deadly, unbroken silence that follows the disappearance of a beloved child.
When the victim is delivered to a radical Islamist organization, her price-tag, payable to the kidnappers, can amount to as much as $3,000 — big money in cash-strapped countries like Egypt.
And although money is a common objective in the kidnapping racket, according to the Clarion Project’s source, radical Muslim captors have a “higher” aim: to strengthen Islam and weaken Christianity.
Mass kidnappings, such as the Boko Haram abductions in Nigeria, are widely reported. A story about the kidnappings of young Pakistani Christian girls recently appeared.
However, the ongoing nightmare in Egypt has gone virtually unnoticed. Parents fall silent. Authorities turn a blind eye. And religiously-motivated kidnappings are also extremely difficult to document.
Why? Too often the parents themselves don’t know precisely how their daughters were taken from them. The most common story is that the Christian girl has fallen in love with a young Muslim man, and the two have run away together. In the process, she has “chosen to convert.”
And if a demand for ransom arises, the parents — too often living hand-to-mouth — are helpless. Even if they seek intervention from local authorities, the police will likely prove unable or unwilling to help.
Thankfully, Marilyn’s parents had a different experience, and their case has proved to be a blessed exception. But the agony for countless others is far from over.
In Egypt, these abductions take place against a broader backdrop of relentless Christian persecution. Church bombings have killed dozens and injured hundreds in recent years. Violence in outlying villages persists, where ransacked homes and torched churches are common.
This past May, 28 Coptic Christians were murdered in a terrorist assault; 20 more were wounded.
As I wrote for Fox News at the time, “The grisly attack, carried out with firearms, took place on an isolated road in the Sinai desert — a sparsely populated region of Egypt where some believe the Islamic State is setting up a new base of operations in the wake of their losses in Iraq and Egypt. The victims belonged to a church group of Coptic Christians and many of them were children. . . .”
Such terrorist attacks ignite a momentary flash of international outrage. They provide a brief opportunity for people of faith to protest, and for activists to repeat — yet again — their demands for reform.
But the ongoing disappearance of young women is rarely mentioned. Parents and clergy alike fear that accusing Islamists of unproven crimes while drawing attention to specific cases may endanger their churches, communities as well as their lost daughters.
Unfortunately, whether they speak out or not, the situation has only gotten worse.
Christianity Today reported in June 2017, that in recent years, hundreds of Egypt’s Coptic Christian schoolgirls have been kidnapped and forced to convert to the Muslim faith of their abductors. “ . . . Since the start of 2011, over 550 Christian girls have been kidnapped by Muslim men before being forced to convert and marry them.”
The American Center for Law and Justice’s (ACLJ) Executive Director Jordan Sekulow has noted that “the 550 figure far exceeds the approximately 300 Nigerian school girls recently kidnapped and forced to convert by Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram. That case drew international condemnation, but the lower-profile, drawn-out wave of abductions in Egypt has gone largely under the radar.”
We thank God for Marilyn’s recently return to her parents. But for so many hundreds of others, as Sekolow points out, “The international community must stand boldly to let the Egyptian authorities know that this is a matter of grave concern.”