A knife-wielding man described as “mentally ill” stabbed to death a 56-year-old Coptic priest, Alexandria Arsanious Wadid, at the popular seaside promenade in the northern city of Alexandria. On the evening of April 7, the 60-year-old man stabbed Walid several times in the neck, which led to his death. The country’s interior ministry says the accused has been arrested.
During the police interrogation, the accused admitted to killing Father Walid. However, he changed the details of the story during their questioning. The man, who police describe as well-spoken, had told authorities that he had a previous mental illness that caused him to lose control over his actions. As a result, the Public Prosecution ordered the detention of the accused at a mental hospital while they determined if he suffered from any “mental and neurological” diseases.
Authorities claim that the three working surveillance cameras in the area did not capture the stabbing. Police reported the recordings only showed passersby panicking, scrambling, and trying to escape.
The pictures show the accused on the ground after people caught him. The public detained the terrorist until the police arrived.
The murder weapon, a kitchen knife, was recovered at the scene.
Archbishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, condemned the killing in a tweet, writing: “In clerical attire in a public space with no one else attacked, it can be safely assumed that Father Arsanious Wadid was targeted as a priest. With a suspect in custody, we wait to see whether investigations rule this to be an ‘individual event’ or part of a known wider phenomenon.”
Wadeed was an archpriest of the Church of the Virgin Mary and Mar Bolous. The Coptic Church posted photos on social media showing dozens attending Wadid’s funeral at the Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria. Priests stood around the open casket. A bible was placed on the slain priest’s chest and a cross around his neck.
It’s Not Islam; It’s Mental Illness
Egyptian Islamic media and authorities quickly deployed their formula for protecting religious Muslims who kill non-Muslims, according to Islamic principles or Jihad. First, they suggest the man is most likely suffering from “psychological issues.” Then they find an Islamic cleric who denounces the killing despite him supporting the many Quranic verses that justify the attack, such as Qur’an 47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, strike the necks.” And finally, they do their very best to hide the killer’s identity. ‘
Muslims attacking and killing non-Muslims is not uncommon in Egypt, where an Orthodox Christian minority, the Copts, is believed to be among the world’s oldest Christian communities. Christians make up more than 10% of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim population.
“While many details about the incident remain unclear, it does highlight the vulnerability that many Egyptian Christians face, particularly during the religious holidays of Ramadan and Easter,” Jeff King, president of the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, said in a statement.
“It is normal for Christians to face increased persecution during these seasons, and such an incident could inspire further acts of extremism,” he warned.
King added, “Unfortunately, within the Egyptian context, it is common for the attacker to be accused of having a mental illness rather than addressing underlying extremist motivations. This trend is not only a disservice to authentic religious freedom, but also increases the marginalization of those with genuine disabilities.”
Christians Face Persecution in Egypt
According to the persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, Egypt is among the 20 worst persecutors of Christians in the world.
Incidents of Christian persecution in Egypt vary from Christian women being harassed while walking in the street to Christian communities being driven out of their homes by extremist mobs, the group states on its website, adding that Christians are typically treated as second-class citizens.
The Christian Post reports that Egypt’s lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, especially in Upper Egypt, it explains. “Due to the dictatorial nature of the regime, neither church leaders nor other Christians are in a position to speak out against these practices.”
It adds that churches and Christian nongovernmental organizations are restricted in their ability to build new churches or run social services. This is per Sharia law’s mandates on non-Islamic religious buildings in an area of Islamic rule. In addition, no new facilities and repairs to older facilities are often not permitted. “The difficulties come both from state restrictions, as well as from communal hostility and mob violence.”