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Slain Egyptian Boy Being Hailed as "Martyr of the Cross"

When 17 year-old Ayman Nabil Labib went to school on October 16, the last thing he ever expected was that this would be the last day of his life. But it was, and all because he refused to cover up the crucifix he had tattooed to his wrist.

The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) is reporting that the murder of Ayman Labib two weeks ago was at first portrayed as a spat between Muslim and Christian students over a seat in a classroom in Mallawi. However, a Coptic Christian news site known as Copts Without Borders learned that the Labib's murder was no spat between students but a cold-blooded murder which occurred after he refused refusal to cover up the crucifix Copts traditionally have tattooed onto their wrists.

"We wanted to believe the official version," said activist Mark Ebeid, "because the Coptic version was a catastrophe, as it would take persecution of Christians also to schools."

But that's indeed what happened. The parents of Ayman said in a taped video interview with Copts United NGO, that his son had a cross tattooed and was wearing another cross under his clothes. Classmates who witnessed the scene said the teacher told Ayman to cover up his tattoo. He refused, and then took out the second cross which he was wearing under his shirt.

"The teacher nearly choked my son and some Muslim students joined in the beating," said his mother.

Ayman's father, Nabil, continued: "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."

Two supervisors intervened, but only to force Ayman into a teacher's room, along with more than a dozen of his assailants, then closed the door to provide privacy. Ayman was then murdered by the group. His body allegedly showed signs of strangulation and having received a heavy blow to the head with a sharp object. His death certificate only specifies “a severe loss of circulatory and respiratory functions” as the cause of death, adding that “the condition is under investigation.”

Prosecutors have arrested and detained two Muslim students, Mostapha Essam and Walid Mostafa Sayed, pending an investigation into the murder.

Nabil said that everyone in Mallawi knew how the event took place, but none of the students' parents would let their children come forward to 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."

Nabil is demanding that the Arabic teacher, the headmaster, and the supervisors should be charged as well as the two students who committed the crime.

"The Arabic language teacher incited the students to attack my son, the headmaster who would not go to the classroom to see what is going on there when alerted to the beatings, but rather said to be left alone and continued sipping his tea, and the supervisors who failed in their supervising duties," he said.

Labib's father also claimed on tape that the head of the detectives on the case tried to influence the witnesses into saying that the murder took place as a result of friction between students rather than over religion.

The governor of Minya, El-Rouby, visited the Coptic Bishop Dimitrious of Mallawi to extend his condolences and suspended the school's headmaster and two supervisors over the incident.

After the funeral service for Labib, over 5,000 Christians marched along the streets of Mallawi, denouncing the killing of a student whom they described as "Martyr of the Cross," and the repeated killings of Copts in Egypt.

Kurt Werthmuller, Research Fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said Ayman's case will be a critical test of the new anti-discrimination law passed in Egypt in the wake of the bloody massacre of Coptic Christians that took place last month at the hands of the Egyptian military.

"In the days after the Maspero massacre, where military troops opened fire and deliberately ran over Coptic protestors with armored trucks, the Egyptian government tried to shore up its battered reputation by passing an anti-discrimination law that explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of religion," Werthmuller explains.

"But if the Egyptian authorities do not pursue justice for the school employees who incited and abetted Ayman’s murder, it will reveal that the government is continuing a policy of impunity for those who threaten and harm Egypt’s already anxious Copts." © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®