Monday, August 13, 2007

Egypt Arrests Members of Toronto-based Copt group

Last week, two members of the Middle East Christians Association (MECA), a Toronto-based international Coptic Christian association, were arrested by police from their homes in Cairo on August 8. MECA has ties to Egyptian convert Mohamed Hegazy who, as we reported in last week's P&P alert, has been fighting for legal recognition of his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Hegazy had reportedly gone to the association for help and became a member.

The arrested men are accused of insulting Islam, confusing the public security and converting Muslims to Christianity. The founder of MECA, Nader Fawzy, maintains that the organization has done nothing illegal. He also said that the Egyptian authorities did not like the work of the organization and were attempting to "kill our branch in Egypt." Not only has the story been reported by Christian persecution news agencies such as Compass Direct and main news services such as Reuters, it has also been picked up by national papers such as the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

By now it shouldn't surprise me that stories which initially seem to involve only one specific restricted or hostile nation often end up also involving Canadian individuals. I know that the world is wholly interconnected, as is the Body of Christ. And yet, I have to admit to being especially jolted when a story literally hits close to home, as this one did with its link to an organization based in a city that is less than an hour from my home.

Of course, I don't believe that I (or other Canadians) should care more about stories which directly involve people living in Canada. However, since persecution stories are largely underreported by the media, I firmly believe that when they do break on to the pages of a national/local newspaper we have a responsibility to pay special attention and to be on guard for unique opportunities to raise awareness of the Persecuted Church within our communities.

Any information put in the hands of the Canadian public is fodder for discussion and therefore has the potential to communicate information that might otherwise have been overlooked or even deliberately ignored. Although I believe our newsletter, email alerts and webpage are doing an excellent job in spreading the news of the Persecuted Church, major newspapers remain the most regular, accessible and widely spread source of information for the people of Canada. Thus their articles may reach people and places that ours do not. Newspapers relay world news to Christians and non-Christians alike, making it possible for even those without the slightest interest in the persecution or, for that matter, religion to read stories such as this situation in Egypt while sipping their morning coffee or waiting for the train.

So I encourage you to keep an eye out for persecution stories in your newspapers and urge you to try and find ways to discuss these stories with others. Whether you are engaging in a discussion with a friend or a five minute conversation with a neighbour, you are playing a part in communicating the message of suffering church to your fellow Canadians.

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