Cairo's Coptic Christians call for increased security after deadly stabbing of priest

Coptic Christians in Cairo, Egypt, have once again expressed concerns over their security situation after a priest from Beni Suef was stabbed to death by a "mentally disturbed" man on Oct. 12, prompting some to suggest arming priests for their own safety.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)A general view of clustered buildings in Cairo, Egypt August 30, 2017.

Rev. Samaan Shehata's stabbing earlier this month was the latest in the spate of attacks targeting Christians in Egypt. The religious minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the country's population, has been subjected to many attacks in the last few years and has also been in the radar of the Islamic State, The Arab Weekly detailed.

"There is shock and fear every­where among the Christians after the cowardly murder of Father Samaan," said Cairo-based church leader Bishop Refail al-Hakim. "The incident reveals the enormity of the threats facing the Christian minority in this country."

There are also some who think that other groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated radical group Hasm is targeting Christians because of their support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Retired police general Mamdouh al-Kidwani said the attacks against the minority aim to stir tension among Christians, Muslims, and the government in a bid to shake Christians' support for the country's leader.

However, the publication noted that Sisi has launched measures to increase security and protection for Christians. Nevertheless, these moves have not stopped attacks, such as what happened to Rev. Shehata.

Despite calls to arm priests, Coptic Pope Tawadros II said there was no need to issue weapons licenses for priests as they were forbidden to carry firearms no matter what the situation.

Meanwhile, authorities detained Ahmed Al-Sonbaty for four days in connection with Rev. Shehata's stabbing, state media said. They also investigated the angle of the suspect being an Islamist radical, Daily News Egypt relayed.

According to eyewitnesses and neighbors cited by local media, Al-Sonbaty was a radical. The ministry of interior also revealed that the suspect was previously accused of attacking his parents and setting their home on fire.