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The Public Spectacle of a Slain Coptic Priest

Fr. Samaan Shehata
Fr. Samaan Shehata, with Pope Tawadros. From an image circulating on social media.

This article was first published at World Watch Monitor.

The images are horrific. Fr. Samaan Shehata, a 45-year-old Coptic Orthodox priest lay dead on the ground, stabbed and beaten by a young man wielding a meat cleaver.

Blood dripped down his face into his long, black beard. Dirt discolored his flowing, black robe. His cross pendant rested peacefully on his chest, eerily imitated in the cross-like stabbing etched onto his forehead.

Many details remain unknown, but early indications point to extremism. Fr. Samaan was from Beni Suef, visiting a family in Cairo 150 kilometers north in a lower-class, urban suburb of Cairo.

It may well be he was targeted only for the clothes he was wearing – in Egypt, a clear indication of his religious profession.

He was left a public spectacle. So far, no claim of responsibility, no message of intention. There are possible hints circulating of mental instability.

Perhaps. Outright murder is rare in Egypt. Despite the increased terrorism suffered by Copts in recent years, this killing is unusual. There is a chance it was random.

But few think so. Coptic social media immediately proclaimed Fr. Simaan a martyr, adding him to the growing scroll.

The image, however, may have lasting effect, reinforcing a decades-old message: The streets are not the place for priests…

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