Human rights watchdog concerned about new crackdown
By: Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- A leading human rights group urged believers around the world Wednesday Dec. 17 to pray for the safety of two rearrested former Muslims who recently became Christians and "are likely to be subjected to serious beatings."
In an internet appeal Barnabas Fund, said Aziz Zakher Sarkis and Sharif Kameel Nazer from Alexandria were detained late Tuesday, Dec. 16, on charges of helping Muslim converts to Christianity obtain new identities.
"Officer Sayed Zaki presided over the arrests and he is known for his particularly aggressive attitude towards converts. The two are being held without charge..." said Barnabas Fund in a statement received by ASSIST News Service (ANS).
"The two Christians were seized without a warrant," Barnabas Fund said. It came as a major set-back as they were recently released on bail along with about 20 other Muslim converts to Christianity, many of whom were subjected to torture and abuse, several human rights groups established.
All were originally arrested for changing official documents for former Muslims accepting Christ as their Personal Savior and Lord with new names and religious affiliation, according to several human rights reports monitored by ANS.
While a Christian who converts to Islam in Egypt can receive new ID papers with a new Muslim name within 24 hours, there is no reciprocal arrangement for a Muslim who converts to Christianity, forcing many to change cards illegally, say human rights groups.
"Thus they will always be regarded as Muslims in the eyes of the law (which) means that female converts to Christianity will be prohibited from marrying Christian men," explained Barnabas Fund.
In addition children from Christian parents will be treated as Muslims, "and educated as such at school, and converts will have to be buried as Muslims."
The latest arrests have lead to concern that all 22 originally arrested will face persecution.
"In the wake of this latest development converts throughout Alexandria are now living in a state of dramatically heightened fear believing they could be next," the organization added.
Besides praying for their safety, Barnabas Fund also appealed to Christians to "keep praying that the Egyptian Government will establish genuine freedom for converts," as it believes that international pressure and prayers work.
Earlier this month a 30-year old Egyptian Muslim convert to Christianity, who made world headlines, was re-united with her family after nearly two months "of torture while under interrogation," a human rights watchdog said Monday Dec. 8.
Mariam Girgis Makar, seen as a symbol of suffering endured by converts, "seemed well" despite the abuse, announced Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which investigates the plight of persecuted Christians.
She and her husband Yusef Samuel Makari, 42, were the first of 22 coverts and supporters to be arrested in late October on charges of forging identity cards for Muslims wishing to change their names and religious affiliation from Islam to Christianity.
Analysts have noted a growing influence of Islamic extremism in mainly Egypt, despite promises from the government to tackle the problem. With over 66 million people Egypt is Africa's second largest country by population, after Nigeria, according to estimates.