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25 November 2015

Call to protect Egypt's Christians

Call to protect Egypt's Christians

During the Egyptian premier, President Al-Sisi's recent visit to the UK, Alliance member, Release International, called on David Cameron to raise the need for religious freedom in Egypt during his meeting with the President.

Release, which speaks up for persecuted Christians around the world, has found Christians in Egypt still suffer violent attacks and face discrimination in the courts.

This month Release also sent a petition containing 23,000 signatures to the Egyptian embassy, calling on Egypt to protect its declining Christian minority.

Release also wants Egypt to free Bishoy Boulos, a Christian who has been accused of blasphemy after trying to change the religious status on his identity card from Muslim to Christian.

Paul Robinson, Chief Executive of Release International says: "When Bishoy Boulos became a Christian and tried to change his official religious status, he was jailed, received death threats and had his home set on fire. That was under the old regime. Now the new regime has jailed him for reporting persecution and has accused him of blasphemy.

"Persecution and discrimination against Christians in Egypt remain a fact," he adds. "A visit by Release International in 2013 confirmed reports that scores of churches had been burned. Two years later, Christians in rural Egypt still face attacks, threats and kidnapping”

Andrew Boyd, Press Officer at Release International says: "When we went to Egypt we saw judges were very much in favour of Sharia Law. What’s needed in Egypt is a change of culture and a revolution in religion.”

Egypt’s Coptic community is still the largest Christian presence in the Middle East. Thousands have already left and there is a real threat that thousands more could feel compelled to leave.  

Release is appealing to the Egyptian government to make good their promises on religious freedom; to make it possible for the country’s Christians to stay.

“Egypt has taken important steps in the right direction,’ adds Paul Robinson. “But full religious freedom is still a long way off.”

Other blasphemy cases in Egypt include: 35-year-old Medhat Isha at risk of being detained indefinitely on a charge of blasphemy. Medhat, from Minya in Upper Egypt, was arrested on August 7 for allegedly evangelising Muslims in a Cairo suburb. The day after his arrest, a judge amended the charge against Medhat to ‘defamation of a revealed religion’.

On 11 July three Christians were arrested in Alexandria for handing out bags of dried dates containing a statement about God’s love. All three were released on bail.

Another Christian was sentenced to six years for 'liking' a facebook page set up to support Christians. Kerolos Shouky Attalah was charged with insulting Islam.

A Christian teacher was sentenced to six months after being accused by her pupils of blasphemy. Dimyana Abd Al-Nourwas was accused of comparing Mohammed to the Coptic Pope.

Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by: supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.