Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive - Sinai Copts Celebrate Easter Despite ISIS Threats

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive - Sinai Copts Celebrate Easter Despite ISIS Threats

Tuesday, 10 April, 2018 - 05:15
Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai. (AFP)
North Sinai (Egypt) – Asharq Al-Awsat
With a smile that reflects the holiday spirit, Manal Mamdouh, a Christian Egyptian resident of northern Sinai, celebrated Easter at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Arish on Sunday amid heavy security measures.

Manal, a housewife in her 50s, hails from southern Egypt, but she settled in northern Sinai some 20 years ago where her husband works as a lawyer.

She had however fled the region two years ago as part of a wave of hundreds of Christian families that escaped the threat of the ISIS terrorists.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat that she could not tolerate being separated from her house for more than three months and had difficulties adjusting to her new life outside of Sinai.

Manal’s family was not the only one that recently felt the weakening of ISIS’ grip and its affiliates on northern Sinai. Some 30 Coptic families celebrated Easter this year at their local church in what was seen as an attempt to turn the page on the chapter of crimes committed by armed extremists against Christians in the region.

The terrorist threat in Sinai first emerged in 2014 when the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group announced its allegiance to ISIS and later changed its name to the Sinai State. In February, the Egyptian military, police and security forces launched a large-scale campaign to eliminate the terrorists from northern Sinai.

Manal told Asharq Al-Awsat that in the past, Christian families used to celebrate Easter by baking sweets and distributing them on to neighbors. They also used to head to the local church to celebrate midnight mass before heading to the Arish beach to celebrate.

Amid the ongoing ISIS threat, the celebrations are now limited to the province’s Coptic Orthodox Church.

Another local, Raouf Gerges told Asharq Al-Awsat that he never left Sinai despite the terrorist threat.

He hoped that Christians would soon be able to resume their traditional Easter celebrations away from the shadow of terror.

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