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Catholic priest praises Egyptian Muslims helping Christians who fled from ISIS

(Reuters/Ahmed Aboulenein)Christian families who left from Al-Arish in the North Sinai Governorate after the escalation of a campaign targeting Christians by Islamic State militants last week, arrive at the Evangelical Church in Ismailia, Egypt February 24, 2017.

A Catholic priest in Egypt has praised ordinary Muslims who offered to help Coptic Christians who fled from Sinai following a series of attacks carried out by the Islamic State.

Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said that Christians need to learn the difference between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

"Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can — they're often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals," Greiche told Catholic News Service.

Greiche said that Catholic churches and schools in Ismailia had offered shelter to the Coptic Christian families with help from Caritas.

The priest noted that ISIS fighters are now "strongly entrenched" in North Sinai, as they have been given access by Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood to tunnels from the Gaza Strip. He advised civilians to stay away from the military zone surrounding the region, which he said was now "under attack all the time."

Amnesty International has stated that the Egyptian government has failed to protect Coptic Christians. The organization urged the government to offer "urgent protection" to the persecuted faith community and provide additional support to those who have been displaced.

Greiche said he believed the authorities were committed to defending Christians against the extremists.

"You can never do enough against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at a time no one can foresee," he said. "But while no country can be fully secure, I think there's will on government side to act decisively against these constant attempts to destabilize Egypt," he added.

Bishop Angaelos, the head of the Coptic church in the UK, has reported that 40 Coptic Christians have been murdered in Egypt between December and February. He said that the Copts in North Sinai were essentially told to "leave or die." At least 1,000 Christians have fled to Ismailia and Cairo after receiving death threats.

During a Cairo youth gathering on Feb. 27, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi condemned the attacks on Christians as "a cowardly plot by evil people intended to undermine national unity and confidence in the state." He added that the defense, interior and intelligence ministries have been instructed to "resist all attempts to sabotage stability and security."

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