Egyptian Christians call their journey to France “miraculous”
Two years ago a 15-year-old Christian Egyptian girl wrote a letter to President Barack Obama about the treatment of Christians in her country.
Dina Maher Ahmad Mo’otahssem, now 17, wrote in her letter to Obama that Muslims in the U.S. are given much better treatment than Coptic Christians are given in Egypt (see http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/05/egyptian-father-daughter-on-the-run-for-two-years-because-of-faith-12293#comments).
Things seemed bleak and hopeless for Dina then. She and her father, Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary, 58, had been on the run since August 2008, switching from one safe house to the next every month, Catholic Online said.
Today, father and daughter consider it a miracle that they are now in France seeking asylum. They are also applying for asylum in the U.S., which is where they really hope to stay. They fear that Muslim extremists may seek them out in France and kill them in response to Fatwas that have been called on them, Compass Direct News said.
They had been on the run for two and a half years in Egypt before the uprising against Mubarak enabled them to flee to Syria on Feb. 22, then France. The revolution that deposed Mubarak also undermined the Ministry of the Interior, which had long hounded El-Gohary, CDN reported.
The uprising set government offices into confusion and when El-Gohary had permission to leave, and they went to nearby Syria. They were still a religious minority and Syria’s unrest impelled them to seek refuge in France, where they moved to on Mar. 30, CDN said.
El Gohary’s troubles began when he filed a case for his religion on his national identification card to be changed from Muslim to Christian. He did this to spare Dina from undergoing persecution he experienced in his 20s, Catholic Online said.
Dina was set to receive identity papers when she turned 16. If El-Gohary’s ID said he was Muslim, that would automatically go on her ID, too. He wanted her to be free to practice her faith, Catholic Online said.
A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed that 84 percent of Egyptian Muslims consider leaving the Islamic faith as a crime that should be punished with death, CDN reported. This explains why the lawsuit caused pandemonium. Egypt, then under President Hosni Mubarak, was a secular government but not tolerant of apostasy.
A national ID is required in Egypt to rent a dwelling, receive medical treatment, and open a bank account, CDN said. Abdul Aziz Zakareya, a Muslim cleric told Catholic Online that El-Gohary “should be killed by authorities.”
Zakareya told Catholic Online, “Public conversions can lead to very dangerous consequences. The spreading of a phenomenon like this in a Muslim society can cause many unwanted results and tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Dina and El-Gohary were subject to Fatwas by Islamic clerics who wanted their blood to be spilled. People said that they were insane and demon possessed, according to Catholic Online.
Father and daughter, for fear of their safety, went to different churches all the time to receive Holy Communion, Catholic Online reported. They were scorned for their faith. Someone threw acid that landed on Dina’s denim jacket (El-Gohary immediately tore the jacket off his daughter). El-Gohary has been attacked by a man with a knife.
El-Gohary told Catholic Online, “Islam is the only thing Egyptians are 150% sure of. If you reject Islam, you shake their belief and you are an apostate, an infidel…I can see in the eyes of Muslims how much my conversion has really hurt them.”
At the same time, El-Gohary refuses to let go of his faith. He told Catholic Online, “In Islam, if you steal your hands are cut off, but in Christianity you can be forgiven. This compassion is what attracted me.”
Dina said, “I’ve always felt Christian, but my mom has taken me to sheiks to convince me of Islam. She made me wear the hijab and go to the mosque against my will. A man with a beard once grabbed me and told me that ‘if you and your dad don’t stop, I’ll kill you both,’” Catholic Online reported.
El-Gohary is seeking asylum in the U.S. as well as in France. Until France resolves his application, he is permitted an automatic three-month extension on his visa, CDN said.
Chris Mitchell of CBN News wrote, “Perhaps it’s fitting that this story of an escape from Egypt came out during the week of Passover. Thousands of years ago, the Israelites fled Egypt to escape Pharoah’s bondage on their way to the Promised Land.
“Thousands of years later, Maher Ahmad El-Gohary, 58, who converted to Christianity from Islam, and his 17-year-old daughter, Dina, escaped from Egypt. It’s a reminder — especially this Easter weekend — of the persecution Christians are subjected to in Egypt and throughout the Middle East — especially Muslims who convert to Christianity.”