Escaping ISIS in Libya

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Osama Mansour (L), from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Consider the horrible ordeal of Coptic Christians in Libya, as the Islamic State stormed their compound. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tells how one escaped, helped by his Muslim friend:

Hani Mahrouf awakened at 2:30 in the morning when fists pounded on the door of his housing compound in Sirte, Libya.

It was Islamic State gunmen, searching for Egyptian Christians.

“They had a lot of weapons,” said Mahrouf, 33, a Muslim construction worker. “They asked if we were Muslim or Christian.

“We told them we were Muslim. Then they asked for the rooms of the Christians.

“They threatened us with their guns.”

The article describes how fighters scaled the compound walls, but the story centers on one who got away:

Osama Mansour, a Christian, was sleeping in a room of the first compound when ISIS burst in. Warned of what was happening, he slipped outside and “jumped from fence to fence just ahead of the gunmen,” he said.

He escaped but was left on his own in the dangerous city, separated from his friends.

“I stayed (in Sirte) for 30 days, but I didn’t stay in the same room” from night to night, said the 26-year-old tile worker.

A man he called “Sheikh Ali,” a Muslim from his home province of Assuit, helped Mansour hide and constantly change locations. Eventually, he grew a beard in order to leave Sirte.

“ISIS had two checkpoints that they would move around. I heard they were checking for tattoos” — he pointed to the bluish-black cross that he and many Coptic Christians ink on the insides of their wrists — “and we put a plaster cast on my hand and wrist. Sheikh Ali gave me a Quran and a prayer rug for the trip.

“I had to do this — I can’t have my mother wearing black” for mourning, Mansour said.

The article says most of his companions also eventually returned home, but it does not specify Sheikh Ali. Maybe he is still in Libya, able to work. If so, Osama may be using a pseudonym to protect his friend’s identity there.

One would hope it is not to protect his identity in Egypt. Recent news has some in the village protesting the church President Sisi promised to build in the name of the martyrs.

But in Libya, in this instance, the bonds of relationship and homeland proved stronger than the militant call of extremist religion. Amid constant news of chaos and atrocity, stories like this are precious reminders of humanity.

Unfortunately, guns and ideology can change the equation.

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