Death threats and Assaults at Bible stall in Vienna

Country: Austria

Date of incident: May 9, 2023

Christian missionary Lahzy Mahfonz Hefzalla Girgis has regularly installed a Christian book table in different districts of Vienna, where he distributes bibles to those interested. He reported receiving death threats and being physically assaulted because of his message that “Jesus is God”. On May 5, 2023, his bookstall was surrounded and attacked by a mob and bibles were stolen.

The book table, which was put up at Reumannplatz, a Muslim-majority neighbourhood in Vienna, displayed posters reading “Jesus says: I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). According to the missionary, he had previously received official permission by local authorities for putting up the table.  

He described the incident as follows: “Exactly at 2.30 pm, several people came to me and said: "Christ is not God", and I tell them according to my conviction, "Christ is the manifested God". The mob wanted to overturn the tables. They attacked the table on which the Bibles and some religious publications in different languages (German, Russian, Arabic, Persian and Turkish) were lying and a totally veiled woman came and took some Bibles” without asking. The mob shouted "Kafer", which means "You are an infidel". In the presence of the mob, Mr Girgis did not speak up. The police intervened in response to an emergency call.

Previously, on March 21, 2023, Lahzy Girgis had been threatened by a mob at the same square. The crowd in front of the bookstall verbally aggressed him in German and Arabic. Arabic-speaking men said: "We don't want you to preach here. You are not allowed to stay here! Who gave you permission? You are only doing this work for money." 

A person threatened Mr Girgis with the words "We want to kill you!" His father was cursed and his mother was cursed particularly severely. A man made a hand gesture symbolising that his neck would be cut meaning: "We want to cut off your head."

On April 13, 2022, the same individual had been kicked when standing at his bookstall at Meidlinger Hauptstrasse in another district of Vienna. The incident was picked up in the media, according to which the attacker had been provoked by the writing on the victim's pullover, reading "Jesus is God" in Arabic language.

In Mr Girgis’ own words: "...this person beat me severely for more than ten minutes, and there was another person with him who kept telling me: 'You are an unbeliever... you are an unbeliever.' After more than ten minutes of beating, he tried to escape, so I said to him, 'Where are you going? Come here, I'll call the police', but he came back and hit me with both feet, once with his right foot and once with his left foot".

Source: Direct report to OIDAC Europe, Heute

Image: OIDAC Europe