For the Cross of Christ

Shireen Mikhail was just 12 years old when she was kidnapped by Muslim extremists. Her kidnappers telephoned her father and said, "Your responsibilities as a father are over. Your daughter has converted to Islam." It was a horrifying example of the way the Coptic Christians of Egypt are being persecuted for their faith. When Shireen was kidnapped, the Egyptian police refused to intervene. Her father took the matter to court. During the proceedings a female was brought forward, but she was so heavily veiled that it was impossible to identify her. Shireen's father requested proof that the female was indeed his daughter. The judge refused, and ordered that Shireen be registered as a Muslim. Paul Marshall tells this story in Their Blood Cries Out, which details the persecution of Christians taking place around the globe. According to Marshall, Egypt is the home of the largest Christian community in the Middle East. The Copts are believed to have been evangelized in the first century by the Gospel writer Mark. They now make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 60 million people. In 1980 the Egyptian National Assembly declared Islam the state religion, which opened a floodgate of persecution against Christians. Militant Islamic groups target Christians for murder, assault, and destruction of property. According to Marshall, every year some 7,000 to 10,000 Egyptian Christians are kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. Christians also suffer institutional discrimination. For example, Christian students have difficulty being accepted at universities and in government jobs. In the words of Chris George, executive director of Human Rights Watch/Middle East, "The State has sent a clear message that the Copts can be discriminated against, [and] they are treated as second-class citizens." Last month I was approached by a representative of a group of Copts, who told me that Coptic churches must obtain permission from the government to repair and maintain their buildings. They cannot even get their toilets repaired without government permission—which often takes years to obtain. This is especially galling when you consider that the American government gives Egypt more than two billion dollars a year in aid. I say it's time for our government to use its economic leverage over Egypt to press for changes. That's why we must pass the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. The Act would curtail nonhumanitarian U.S. foreign aid to any country that engages in religious persecution. On March 25 the House International Committee will begin action on the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. American businessmen, foreign lobbyists, and the Clinton administration are all fighting ferociously to defeat this Act. We will prevail only if hundreds of thousands of outraged Christians call the House in the next few days and demand passage of this Act. Call us at BreakPoint; we'll send you information and tell you how you can help. Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph carried the infant Jesus to Egypt to avoid persecution. It's ironic, isn't it, that today Egyptian Christians are being persecuted because they follow that Holy Child. You and I need to let our representatives know that we will no longer tolerate being unwilling co-conspirators in the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Egypt—or anywhere else.


Chuck Colson


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