The predicament of al-Arish Copts who were faced with the hard choice of losing half their income or risking death has been finally resolved by the Governor of North Sinai.
Some two months ago, these Copts had appealed to the Prime Minister to look into a decision by the Governor which entailed a huge cut in their pay. Now Governor Mohamed Abdel-Fadil Shousha has rescinded that decision.
The Copts in question used to live in the North Sinai town of al-Arish, some 50km east of the Egypt Gaza border. They had been forced to exit their hometown in February 2017 among some 200 Coptic families, in the wake of the murder of six Copts in the space of three weeks at the hand of Islamic Jihadis. Jihadis had also threatened that any Copt who remained in town would meet the same fate.
The Copts left to various places in Egypt where they tried to build new lives. Two who attempted a return to their hometown a year later were promptly killed.
Arishis who had been employed in their hometown by the government—most were employed as teachers or staff with the Ministry of Education—remained on its payroll, working in equivalent jobs in schools at their new destinations and receiving the salaries they used to get paid in Arish.
Last May, Governor Mohamed Shousha ordered that the Copts who were not working in Arish should no longer hold their jobs there or be on the Arish payroll, but should be officially assigned to jobs in their current locations. The decision meant a substantial cut in pay for the Copts, since the pay for working in Arish carries bigger benefits and compensations than in other places in Egypt.
The decision brought on an outcry among the Coptic employees who said they never left Arish of their own free will, but were forced to do so on account of the terror attacks and threats against them. They cited the fact that Arish has not yet been declared safe by the Armed Forces who alone can make such a declaration; in fact attacks by Jihadis are still ongoing.
In a statement released on 29 June 2022 by the governorate of North Sinai, Governor Shousha announced that Copts on Arish payroll but working commissioned to jobs outside Arish do not have to return to their previous jobs in Arish, but may continue in their current jobs and get paid their Arish salaries, provided they present a periodic document from their place of work proving their situation. The statement explained that the decision comes to protect them from any harm and preserve their family stability.
Arish Copts responded by expressing their relief at the governor’s decision, pointing out that they fully appreciate the State’s efforts in its war against terror in North Sinai. They expressed their gratitude to the Church for supporting them in their plight, and particularly thanked Anba Pimen, head of the Church’s Crisis Management Committee. They also extended their gratitude to the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Local Development and the North Sinai Governor for their efforts to find an answer to their problem.
30 June 2022