70-year-old Christian woman stripped naked, paraded through street in Egypt

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Egyptian Coptic Christian women pray. | REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO (Christian Examiner) – A 70-year-old Christian woman in Egypt was beaten and stripped of her clothes before being paraded through the streets by a Muslim mob chanting "Allahu Akbar" – "God is great" – in a province south of the Egyptian capital, CBS News has reported.

Egypt's top Orthodox cleric in Minya Province, Anba Makarios, issued a signed statement on behalf of the church detailing the violent account. The mob attacked the woman, the statement said, because it was rumored her son had an affair with a Muslim woman. The woman did not report the incident for five days, finding it difficult to "swallow the humiliation," Makarios said.

However, police were on scene of the incident within two hours of the violence starting. They arrested six people in the mob. Why they did not arrive before remains unclear, as Makarios claims the police were notified of the threats against Christian villages the day before.

"No one did anything and the police took no pre-emptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks," Makarios said in a television interview Wednesday. "We are not living in a jungle or a tribal society. It's incorrect for anyone to declare himself judge, police and ruler."

Christians have always been considered second-class citizens by the country's Muslim majority – nearly 90 percent of the population. However, under leaders like Hosni Mubarak, the military and police largely kept the peace and generally offered some level of protection to Christians.

That limited tolerance ended during the so-called "Arab spring" stoked by the administration of President Barack Obama, who supported the Muslim Brotherhood's ascension to power in Egypt. The U.S. later withdrew that support when hardline Islamists gathered power but failed to provide essential services to the country's citizens.

Egypt's current president, Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi, led a military coup d'etat to oust the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014 and has worked to bring stability back to Egypt. He changed election laws to allow more Christians into the national legislature and has allowed the building and restoration of churches. In one case, the Egyptian military helped rebuild a church gutted by fire.

Relationships between Christians and Muslims in Egypt are strictly forbidden in most cases, as in the case of a prohibition on Christian men marrying Muslim women. Muslim men, however, are allowed by law to marry Christian women.