UK. Barnabas Fund is pleased to publicise the following statement issued by the Christian Converts of Egypt on 26 October in response to the arrest of 22 converts and those who helped them obtain new identities in Alexandria in late October.
"A plea from Egyptian converts to Christianity who are caught in the jaws of unjust laws."
"IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT."
For many years, we have been struggling for the simplest of our human rights, the freedom of belief and the freedom of worship.
We have been imprisoned, tortured, followed by the security police and subjected to all forms of abuse for our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
But in Jesus, our lives and behaviour are so much better. Many among us were terrorists, Islamist fundamentalists. We were burning churches, killing, treating our whole society as apostates. But after we put our faith in Jesus, we became pacifists, bonded to our nation, living in the best way we could.
But despite this change for the better, our Islamic government does not accept the changing of our religion from Islam to Christianity.
This right is accepted by the Constitution of Egypt, but rejected by Islamic Law: "And whoso becometh a renegade and dieth in his disbelief, such are rightful owners of the fire they will abide in" (Surah El-Baqarah 217) [**1]
Islamic law is the main source for the Egyptian Constitution: Article 2:
"Islam is the state religion, Arabic the official language, and the principles of Islamic Law the main source of legislation."
According to this legislation, we as converts are considered apostates. We need to repent within three days, or we will be killed.
But Al-Azhar [**2] was "merciful" to us, and changed the punishment to repentance to be carried out for the rest of the apostate's life. So, he will be imprisoned for life, under surveillance, threatened-for the rest of his life!
We are between the jaws of the Constitution and the legislation. To solve this dilemma of the freedom of belief guaranteed in the Constitution, and the judgment for apostasy in Islamic Law, they put us between the jaws of an illegal law.
The Penal Code states that whoever blasphemes or disdains a heavenly religion must be brought before the courts. By "heavenly religion" here, they mean Islam! But how, and why? No one knows. Is it logical that the person who chooses a religion other than Islam is accused of blasphemy, and the opposite is not applied?
We as Christian converts therefore declare:
1] We claim our rights, as given by the Egyptian Constitution and by all the international declarations and treaties of human rights worldwide. We ask the Egyptian Government not to treat its citizens in an unequal way. Just as it deals with the Christian embracing Islam, giving him the right to change his faith, his name, his identity and all his official papers in less than 24 hours, we as converts claim the same right-the citizenship right by which we are subject to the same rights and the same duties. Here Christians are not persecuted, because they have the freedom to change their faith; but Muslims are persecuted, because they are not enjoying that same right!
2] We ask that all cases of falsification of documents against the converts to Christianity be dropped, with no conditions. The Egyptian Government is itself responsible for this illegal action, because it has deprived us of one of our basic legal rights, to embrace a new faith and change our name, our identity and our official papers. Give us our rights, and we will not falsify these things.
3] We ask the Egyptian Government and all human rights organizations all over the world to stop the torture, illegal detention, security surveillance and incitement of families against religious converts. It is unbelievable in the 21st century that the tribunals of inquisition are still controlling our consciences, hearts and minds.
4] We declare to the Egyptian Government that it has been playing for time for many years now, while we have had to spend our lives, our dreams and ourselves behind bars, kept in prisons and under detention. In the face of the rising number of converts, the government has no choice but to respect the desire of thousands of Muslims to embrace Christianity. We do not want this to be only an inner, secret faith, but a totally embracing one, so that we will be able to worship freely our Lord and Saviour Jesus, and be allowed to raise our children in all the boundless grace of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Finally, we believe that:
"In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world."
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."