Pope Shenouda III
A press release from the Jubilee Campaign, with thanks to FreedomNowNews:
For immediate release
March 25th 2004
EGYPTIAN CHURCH LEADER CONDEMNS FORCED CONVERSIONS OF CHRISTIANS TO ISLAM
Pope Shenouda the Third, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, has publicly condemned the kidnapping and forced conversions of Christian women to Islam. In a speech on March 16 he said, “I have received so many letters about what’s happening to the Christian girls who go to supermarket stores to shop. At the store they tell them that they have won and have to go upstairs to receive their award or prize. After that we don’t know what’s happening to these girls upstairs.
There is a lot of talking going on about this matter, and I see that what’s happening will create a religious clash in the country. I’m urging the police to take a serious action against what’s happening, because I have a numerous number of letters regarding this matter. We don’t know where they took the girls. They could be anywhere.
This matter shouldn’t be taken in a careless way as if nothing happened. I’m saying this and I know how dangerous the situation is. We don’t want more disasters to happen to us. We’ve had enough.”
Sine 1993, the Christian human rights organisation, the Jubilee Campaign, has been campaigning against the forced conversions of Egyptian Christians, especially women, to Islam, and has had numerous cases of such incidents brought to its attention.
In 1998, the late Bishop Athanasius of Beni Souif, gave a public talk in which he described an incident which took place some years beforehand, when a young Christian woman came to him for help after she managed to escape from Muslims who had held her captive with the intention of forcing her to convert to Islam.
She had fled from a house where different teams of Muslims were working to
pressure or force Christians to convert to Islam. She had been tricked by two Muslim friends into accompanying them to that house, where she was held captive. Her description of what happened there indicated that there was a very organised and systematic approach by these Muslims to waylaying and forcing Egyptian Christians to convert to Islam.
Jubilee’s Researcher and Parliamentary Officer, Wilfred Wong, says, “The attempts to force Christians to convert to Islam in Egypt are on the increase and the methods are getting increasingly varied and well organised.
Some of these forced conversions are carried out by Muslim individuals, with the help of their friends, while others are being conducted by well funded groups. Christians of all denominations are seen as “fair game” for forced conversions, whether they be Protestants, Coptic Orthodox or Catholic. It is common for money to be offered to Christians to convert to Islam – no small matter in a country where poverty is very widespread – but it also common for intimidation and force, including kidnapping and the threat or use of rape to be adopted as a method of making Christians convert to Islam. Christian women and girls are especially vulnerable to these attacks and the Egyptian authorities do nothing to protect the Christians. The Egyptian police even order the families of kidnapped Christian women to forget about their daughters and not to try to get them back.
Pope Shenouda rarely ever makes public pronouncements regarding the persecution of Christians but for him to have recently publicly mentioned these kidnappings of Egyptian Christian women is one disturbing indication that the problem is escalating sharply. Since the Egyptian authorities do nothing to help, the Muslims involved in these forced conversions are emboldened to increase the scale of their operations. Much prayer is needed against this evil phenomenon.”
In his speech, Pope Shenouda also referred to an incident where some young Christian men were travelling and carrying some Bibles. They were arrested and interrogated by the authorities simply because they were in possession of a few Bibles.
There are about ten million or more Christians in Egypt, making them by far the largest Christian community in the predominantly Islamic Arab world. For many years Jubilee Campaign has been warning the international community that this also makes Egyptian Christians a prime target for Muslim fundamentalists, who want to rid the Arab world of such a large Christian presence by either converting them to Islam, driving them out of the country or killing them.
For further information you can contact Wilfred Wong on +44 (0)20 7219
Jubilee Campaign is an interdenominational Christian human rights organisation which has worked with over 150 British Parliamentarians on human rights issues all over the world.