Christain youth killed for wearing cross

Originally published in Worthy News

In October of this year, Egyptian news media published stories of an altercation between Muslim and Christian students over a classroom seat at a school in Mallawi, Minya province, which left one student dead. It was being reported as a non-sectarian, that is, non-religiously motivated, incident. However, Copts Without Borders, a Coptic Christian news website, denied the claim, saying, in fact, that the student was killed because he was wearing a crucifix.

Mark Ebeid, a Christian activist, said “We wanted to believe the official version because the Coptic version was a catastrophe, as it would take persecution of Christians also to schools.” He blamed the church in Mallawi for keeping quiet about the incident.

Approximately three weeks ago, two weeks after the murder, the parents of the 17-year-old Christian student Ayman Nabil Labib broke their silence, confirming that their son was murdered on October 16. Nabil Labib, Ayman’s father, said in a taped video interview with Copts United NGO, that, per Coptic tradition, his son had a cross tattooed on his wrist, as well as another cross which was worn under his shirt. Young Ayman was murdered in “cold blood because he refused to take off his crucifix as ordered by his Muslim teacher,” Mr. Labib said.

Ambulance drivers complicit in his death?
According to Ayman’s father, eyewitnesses told him that his son was not beaten up in the school yard as per the official story, but in the classroom. “They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault. When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later.”

Mr. Labib said that everyone in Mallawi knew how the event took place, but not one of the students’ parents was prepared to let their children come forward and give a statement to the police. “They are afraid of the school administration, which has lots of ways to harass the students, as well as being afraid of the families of the two Muslim killers.”

Prosecution in the case has three witnesses, two men working at school who named the assailants and one students who wanted to retract his statement, but was refused. “the evidence is under lock and key. Everyone is hiding the evidence. We will know the truth after forensic medicine has finished the report next week,” said Nabil, adding that the head of detectives on the case tried to influence the witnesses, claiming that the murder took place as a result of friction between students.

Official condolences
The governor of Minya, El-Rouby, visited the Coptic Bishop Dimitrious of Mallawi to extend his condolences, accompanied by representatives of Minya military authorities. He also suspended the school’s headmaster and the two supervisors, as well as two social workers who were on duty when Ayman died, and referred them to an investigation committee. But all of them have disappeared since then.

Prominent columnist Farida El-Shobashy wrote in the independent newspaper Masry Youm, “I was shaken to the bones when I read the news that a teacher forced a student to take off the crucifix he wore, and when the Christian student stood firm for his rights, the teacher quarreled with him, joined by some of the students; he was beastly assaulted until his last breath left him.”

Farida pointed out that the gravity of the incident is where it took place and who incited the attack (the teacher.) She went on to blast the Ministry of Education for neglecting the education syllabus to prevent discriminatory contents but instead “left it to teachers to spread the fanatic Wahabi ideology.”

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