In 2011, Nadia Makram, 13, was walking home from church near her working-class Cairo neighborhood when she vanished.

Her mother, Martha, went to the police, who refused to file a report. Soon after, Martha received a call demanding $15,000. She went back to the police, who registered a complaint but noted only Nadia's disappearance.

When the police did nothing, Martha gathered money from family and friends and traveled to a village 65 miles south.

Martha met Nadia's 48-year-old kidnapper in the home of the local mayor. After she handed over the money, the men showed her what they called a "marriage certificate." Nadia, they said, had converted to Islam and married her abductor. Martha left empty-handed—an increasingly common story among Coptic Christians. Abductions have increased sharply in the past few months.

Nadia's case is being followed by the Association for Victims of Abductions and Enforced Disappearances (AVAED), which has documented 500 similar cases since the 2011 revolution. Hers appears to be a straight kidnapping, but AVAED says these are only a small proportion of disappearances. Sixty percent of them begin with a love relationship built on false pretenses.

"The girls are told, 'What will your family do to you if you go back to them? Convert to Islam so we can be together,' " said Ebram Louis, founder of AVAED. Kept against their will, Louis says, some of the girls are later found in brothels.

But some kidnappings turn out to be runaway stories instead. If a young Copt has found a Muslim lover, her shamed family may invent a tale of kidnapping by Muslim extremists.

Still, no matter the reason for the disappearance of a minor, says Cairo pastor ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this IssueHummus and the Holy Spirit
Hummus and the Holy Spirit Subscriber Access Only
Like the popular Middle Eastern dish, our understanding of the Trinity relies on a delicate blend of ingredients. Did one small change to the Nicene Creed alter the recipe, or enhance the original?
RecommendedThe Real History of the Crusades
The Real History of the CrusadesSubscriber Access Only
A series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics? Think again.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickTogether for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Together for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Lessons learned from illumiNations initiative could transform giving to other causes.
Christianity Today
Why Egypt's Christian Families Are Paying Ransoms
hide thisJanuary/February January/February

In the Magazine

January/February 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.