Christian families pressured to convert to Islam in Egypt, brings shame and stigma upon them
Christian widows or Christian girls whose fathers have passed away are even more vulnerable to the pressures to abandon their Christian faith. They constantly are exposed to financial offers, marriage proposals, or even conspicuous accusations and framing for crimes they did not commit.
According to Open Doors UK, Christians in Egypt face unprecedented levels of persecution. Most incidents happen in Upper Egypt, where Salafist movements are active in the rural communities. The Islamic Salafi al-Nour party operates legally, although the Constitution prohibits religious parties. Their influence is considerable in rural societies where there is a high percentage of illiteracy and poverty.
A Christian woman, after the death of her husband, continued to run their family community grocery market. When her neighbour’s son started harassing her teenage daughter, she confronted them and asked the boy not to take advantage of her daughter. The Muslim neighbour insisted that she should let her daughter marry his son and she could convert to Islam and be led from the “delusion of their faith to the true religion”. He also threatened her that in case she refused to convert, they had the right to do whatever they wanted to her daughter. Fearful for their lives, futures and dignity, she was forced to relocate to a new area.
A recent ordeal of a Christian family reinforces how shame can shatter people’s lives in the community. The daughter, who is in her 20s, fell in love with a Muslim man in her workplace. She admittedly converted to Islam to marry him and left her family. Her father was fired from his job due to the stigma of his daughter’s conversion. Her younger sister’s fiancé broke off the engagement because he did not want to be associated with a shameful family.
Egyptian Christians are often victims of social exclusion, and face constant discrimination in areas such as justice, education and basic social services. In rural areas, Christian women have been targeted for abduction and forced marriage. Believers who come from Muslim backgrounds face pressure from their families and communities; they may be beaten or expelled from their homes. Thousands of churches are still awaiting official recognition.