Cover Story

The new Egyptian wilderness

"The new Egyptian wilderness" Continued...

Issue: "Trouble in Egypt," June 2, 2012

After attending some worship services, classes, and social functions, he says he has a better understanding of Christians: "They take care of each other." But he also has some advice: "They should get out of their isolation and into society, let people know them. That's what they need to do before the doors are closing."

Whether the doors will close for religious minorities in Egypt is an open question. Back at Kasr el Dobara, the associate pastor says he knows difficult times could come. But he compares Christians' plight in Egypt to the plight of the Old Testament's Joseph who endured his own difficulties in the same country.

"We know that maybe we have to go through some tough times, but we hope that will lead to better times," said the minister. "Maybe seven lean years will go before seven years of abundance."

Not forsaken

Muslim converts to Christianity face special dangers in a new Egypt

By Jamie Dean

Arranging a meeting in Egypt with a Muslim convert to Christianity is a sensitive proposition. When I met Mary Ahmed to discuss life since her conversion-and the changes in Egypt over the last year-I agreed to protect her identity. (Mary Ahmed is a pseudonym.)

Ahmed isn't ashamed of her faith. She's worried about her safety and her livelihood if her devout Muslim family learns that she's a Christian. And since Egypt's revolution last year, her fears have grown.

If Christians are a vulnerable minority in Egypt, converts to Christianity are an especially vulnerable minority. Add being a woman to the dynamic and the dangers increase further.

Ahmed's concerns were obvious in the route she took to our meeting: After leaving her home, she took a minibus, switched to a cab, and then walked part of the distance to obscure her trail. She planned to take a different route home. When she's home, she's careful to hide her Bible and remove Christian resources that could reveal her faith.

But Ahmed isn't reserved about her commitment to Christ. She became a Christian through the influence of a friend who encouraged her to read the Bible. "I began reading in Genesis, and I finished the whole Bible," she says. "I didn't understand everything, but I was very happy."

Ahmed says she was particularly drawn to the teaching that God is near to those who believe in Him. (Islam teaches a distant God.) And she was attracted to a Christian community that has become a spiritual family. She volunteers for church functions, visits the sick, prays with needy members, and attends nearly every event, even though every trip is a potential risk.

She longs for her own family to know Christ, but says she must remain quiet about her faith for now. If they discover she's a Christian, Ahmed believes they would imprison her in her own home. It's difficult for her to contemplate being separated from her church.

Since the revolution, the dynamic has grown worse, and Ahmed says she sees parts of the culture becoming more severe. The political rise of Salafi Muslims and their hard-line call for strict adherence to Sharia law has inflamed Ahmed's family against Christians. They've pressured her to embrace Muslim practices that she's quietly given up in her home.

Perhaps they already know she's a Christian. Perhaps they'll find out. Either way, Ahmed says that while giving up church would be difficult, she's not afraid of retribution. "I know that God has been protecting me all this time," she says. "And even if something happens to me, He'll be in control of that too. ... I'm not afraid, even though things might get worse."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD.

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