By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– An American evangelical pastor is “thanking God” that he and two others have been released after they were kidnapped in Egypt last week.
Reverend Michel Louis, 61, and 39-year-old Lissa Alphonse, both Boston-area residents, had been kidnapped from a bus on Friday, July 13, along with their guide, Haytham Ragab, on a Sinai Desert road by a Bedouin who was demanding the release of his uncle from prison.
His uncle had reportedly been detained by Egyptian police on suspicion of drug possession.
However, after three days of negotiations, Abu-Masuh released the prisoners to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish.
“We are a people of mercy and they [the hostages] don’t have anything to do with this,” Abu-Masuh said in published statements, monitored by BosNewsLife Friday, July 20.
Egyptian officials reportedly said the Americans are in “good condition.”
Pastor Louis’ Presbyterian church in the U.S. city of Boston takes a trip to Israel every year.
The troubles began when their tour bus crossed into neighboring Egypt.
The pastor, a diabetic, reportedly offered himself as a hostage in exchange for Alphonse, a married mother, but was also kidnapped.
As news emerged of their release, the pastor’s church was preparing Friday, July 20, for a “home coming service” to be held Sunday, July 22, BosNewsLife learned.
The pastor told reporters he “is thanking God” for the release of himself and other hostages, and his family said it “was an answer to prayers.”
Observers say the kidnapping underscores tense relations between the Bedouin and authorities, with Bedouin complaining of discrimination by the government and abuses against them by security forces.
Under the previous regime disputes very rarely spilled over to effect tourists, but this was the third time this year that Americans have been kidnapped in the Sinai area.
It also added to wider concerns over other kidnappings of native minority Christians in heavily Islamic Egypt, a still turbulent nation lacking enough policing following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak last year.
In a report released this week advocacy group Christian Solidarity International (CSI) said there is especially concern that Christian “Coptic women and girls are deceptively lured or abducted into forced marriages with Muslim men” while also being forced to renounce their faith and convert to Islam.”
These actions generally occur after the women are threatened or even physically abused, CSI added.