CAIRO Ñ Egypt has launched a crackdown on Christian missionaries.
About two dozen Christians have been arrested by Egyptian police over
the last week, Christian sources said. They said many of them were Muslims
who recently converted to Christianity.
The Barnabas Fund, which seeks to support the Christian presence in the
Islamic world, said the crackdown began on Oct. 21 when Christian activists
were arrested in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The group said the
first of those arrested
were two converts from Islam as part of a police investigation that began in
Cairo and expanded to Alexandria.
Christians comprise about six percent of Egypt's population of more than
70 million, Middle East Newsline reported. Virtually all of the Christians are Copts, who do not engage in
"Local Christians fear the arrests will continue and many other converts
from Islam, who have been living quietly as Christians may now be arrested
in the next few days," the group said.
The detained Christians were charged with falsifying their identity
cards. The group said the charges apparently stemmed from the changes of
names undergone by the new Christians.
"Whilst Egypt has no law against apostasy from Islam, in practice
converts are actively punished by the police in this 90 percent Muslim
country," the group said. "It is impossible for a Muslim who converts to
Christianity to change their name to a Christian one at all. Thus they will
always be regarded as Muslims in the eyes of the law."
Barnabas, with offices in Australia, Britain and New Zealand, said some
of the Christian detainees have been tortured. The
Egyptian government has not responded.
The group said Christian converts have been held in prison for long
periods under Egypt's emergency regulations. The goal is for the
Christians to recant their new faith.