Egypt's Christians face fresh attacks and legal battles

Concern is growing for Christians in Egypt following another attack on the homes of Coptic Christians. And a legal battle is taking place in Egypt to overturn a court ruling which denies the right of citizens to change their religious identity on their ID cards.

Former Muslims who have become Christians and who want to change the religion shown on their ID cards have been driven into hiding, along with their families and threatened with death.

"Many Muslim scholars issued a fatwa, saying I must be killed," says Mohammed Hegazy in the latest edition of World Update on the Persecuted Church by Release International.

"On television, people were saying if they meet me on the streets, they will kill me. Many fatwas have come up saying I must be killed."

Mohammed and his wife and daughter are now in hiding. His wife has been threatened with death because she married a convert to Christianity.

Mohammed took the unprecedented step of going to court to change his religion from Islam to Christianity on his national ID card – but the court ruled against him. He says he has been arrested and tortured to try to get him to reveal the names of his Christian contacts.

A second convert to Christianity has been driven into hiding after an Egyptian court refused him permission to change his religious status. According to news agency Compass Direct, a court body, the State Council, declared his request to be a threat to social order and a violation of Sharia law.

Under the strictest interpretations of Sharia El-Gohary is regarded as an apostate who should be put to death.

Extremists have taken it upon themselves to carry out that ‘sentence’. Maher has been attacked on the street, subject to death threats and driven into hiding. He says he intends to appeal against the court’s decision.

"What could be more basic to our very humanity than the freedom to choose our own religion?" asks Andy Dipper, the CEO of Release International. "And what right could any court have to deny that basic human freedom? Egypt must grant full religious freedom to its citizens, recognise and accept their personal choices - and protect its people from mob rule and vigilantes who consider themselves above the law."

Meanwhile, in the latest attack against Coptic Christians a mob torched and looted Christian homes and shops after a Muslim student was killed in a fight, according to Religious Intelligence.

Following the funeral of the 19-year-old, a mob chanting ‘Allah Akhbar’ stoned and set fire to the houses of Christians in Meet El Korashy.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom described the latest incident as "another upsurge of violence against Coptic Christians", and called on the government to do more to protect them.

According to the Canadian Coptic Association there were more than 70 attacks against Copts in 2008.

Through its international network of missions Release supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and their families in 30 nations.

Mohammed tells his story in the video report World Update on the Persecuted Church, available for download from