Because Jesus Taught Me to Love Print
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 15 April 2008 07:55
Abu Daoud links to a telling article in Christianity Today about how things are - and are not - changing for MBB's (Muslim Background Believers - that is, Muslims who convert to Christianity) in Egypt.

The piece begins:

Nine years ago, Mohammed Hegazy, then 16, dropped out of an Islamic school after deciding he didn't want to be a Muslim preacher. He transferred to another school, unknowingly joining a class that included seven Christians.

That fateful transfer in 1999, and Hegazy's later conversion to Christianity due to the witness of those seven students, set in motion events that led to Cairo's highest civil court. In late January, Judge Muhammad Husseini refused to issue Hegazy a new identity card registering him as a Christian. "He can believe whatever he wants in his heart," the judge said, "but on paper he can't convert."

Hegazy wasn't the only Egyptian convert taking his cards to court. In a second case, a judge has allowed Christians who had converted to Islam for divorce or employment to "re-convert" to Christianity. But the ID cards of these 12 re-converts will include the potentially stigmatizing words, "Christian, previously proclaimed Islam as his/her religion." In a third case, an administrative court ruled that the government must issue ID cards omitting any religious designation to followers of Baha'i, a marginalized religious minority.

In Egypt, a person's identity card is destiny. It is required, for example, to rent an apartment, hold a job, enroll in school, vote, travel overseas, and receive government services. The cards establish citizenship, legal residence, and religious affiliation. But the only religious options are Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

All three cases gained enormous attention in the Arabic media, in part because Egypt is creating a new national ID-card database. They also sparked fresh public arguments over punishment for apostasy and Egypt's poor human-rights record.

I blogged about Hegazy's situation a few weeks ago.

The pastor of Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in the near east , Samah Maurice, "believes a religious earthquake is shaking the Middle East, leading to many new conversions from Islam. "For years, there were only hundreds converting from Islam to Christianity. Very confidential, very low key," he said. "Now [converts] are writing their stories. They are in chatrooms. The voice of converts for the first time is being heard. The numbers are beyond estimation. It's an iceberg. If you hear a thousand, then there are 100,000 beneath the surface."

Check out Kasr El Dobara's English website to get a better feel. Among other things, they run the largest drug rehab program in the Arab world and a remarkable program called "Smart Heart" a life skills training program aimed at empowering young women through raising their emotional intelligence, self image and capacity for assertiveness and resistance of abuse."

Consider this very telling and funny story from Maurice:

"He reports that many inquiring Muslims say they've been visited by Jesus. "The most effective thing happening to convert Muslims to Christianity is visions and dreams," Sameh said. "It's the work of the Holy Spirit. It's not the work of a man, a church, or an organization."

This approach also provides the Kasr El Dobara pastors their first line of defense against accusations of proselytism. Once, Egyptian authorities questioned Menes about baptizing a woman who came to him after seeing a vision of Jesus coming through her door and window in Kuwait. "It's the problem of the police there," he replied to them. "They didn't guard the door or the window.

Read the whole article-especially about the burgeoning evangelical outreach within Coptic Christianity and the last part about the whole new phenomena of followers of Christ who remain Muslims.

I'd like to end by returning to the case of Mr. Hegazy, whose legal appeal has cause such a stir. The current Wicki article about him ends with this poignant and moving anecdote about the cost of discipleship and power of God to give us strength and love beyond our human capacity.

"Hegazy raised a storm of controversy when pictures of him posing for journalists with a poster of the Virgin Mary were published in the newspapers. [3][1][2]

Fatwas have been issued by muslim clerics calling for Hegazy's death. Under the same fatwa, Hegazy's daughter Miriam will be killed at the age of 10 if she does not choose Islam.[3][1][2]

He has received death threats by telephone. He and his wife have been ostracized by their families and are currently in hiding. Katarina's family have sworn to kill her because she married a non muslim against the family's wishes.

Hegazy's family is just as angry with him. In a 2008 interview to a local Egyptian newspaper, Hegazy's father said, "I am going to try to talk to my son and convince him to return to Islam. If he refuses, I am going to kill him with my own hands."

Shortly after, Hegazy released this statement in response to his father:

"I would like to send a message to my dad. I saw what you said in the newspapers. You say you want to kill me; to shed my blood in public. But I love you so much because you are my dad and because Jesus taught me to love. I accepted Jesus Christ willingly and nobody forced me. I forgive you. No matter what decision you make. No matter what you do. To my dad and mom, I say Jesus Christ died to save me."