For the Cross of Christ
by Chuck Colson
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
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. Shireens
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 Egypts 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 $2 billion a year in aid.
Militant Islamics target Christians for assault and murder.
I say its time for our government to use its economic leverage
over Egypt to press for changes. Thats 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 began 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 at 1-800-995-8777, and well
send you information to tell you how you can help.
Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph carried the infant Jesus to
Egypt to avoid persecution. Its ironic, isnt 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.