Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Egypt refuses to recognize Muslim born, Christian converts



This is one of the last pictures taken of Mohammed Bishoy Hegazy. For the father of two, showing his face in public is now a matter of life and death.
Gregor Puppnick
European Center for Law and Justice

“He’s in hiding, and his family is in danger he’s not allowed to leave his country.”

Mr. Hegazy was born a Muslim in Egypt, but when he turned 16 he turned to Christianity. One of thousands of Muslim born Christian converts in Egypt. The country’s constitution recognizes religious freedom, but the government only allows one way conversions. From Christianity to Islam, not the other way around.  Mr. Hagazy was the first to seek that recognition by taking his case to the Egyptian courts, but in 2008 the courts ruled against him.

Since then, Gregor Puppnick of the European Center for Law and Justice, - Mr. Hegazy’s attorney-, says his client hasn’t been allowed to leave the country. He’s been detained and tortured.

Gregor Puppnick
European Center for Law and Justice

”Today he’s running he’s in hiding he’s had two death threats, his house and family has been attacked he went to jail. 421 he said himself his stay in jail was like a concentration camp with the Nazis.”

So, Mr. Puppnick has sent an urgent appeal to the U.N to launch an inquiry of the state of religious freedom in Egypt, which will put Egypt’s conversion laws into the spotlights. Puppnick hopes it will pave the way for the government to recognize Christian converts.

Gregor Puppnick
European Center for Law and Justice

“We hope to gain the freedom of Christians in Egypt to live freely as Christians.”

Currently there are 10 million Christians in Egypt the majority are Coptic Orthodox. But given increasing Muslim Christian tensions, the numbers are dwindling.

Gregor Puppnick
European Center for Law and Justice
“Like in many countries in the Middle East the radical Islam tries to reduce the number of Christians, and they’re trying to get them to leave the country. The way they try to get them to leave the country is threatening them and sometimes violent killing.”

This June the Human Rights Council will consider, discuss and vote on the findings of Egypt’s conversion laws.

Laws that are keeping Mr.Hegazy’s out of the spotlight and his identity at the center of a long struggle.

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