Release’s petition, part of its #EveryRight campaign, calls on Egyptian politicians to make good their guarantee of freedom of religion for Christians, who are increasingly under attack in the country.
The petition comes as an Egyptian Christian has been jailed in the country for sharing his faith with Muslims. According to reports, 35-year-old Medhat Isha faces an indefinite jail sentence over a false charge of blasphemy.
He was arrested on 7 August for allegedly evangelising Muslims in a Cairo suburb. The day after his arrest, a judge amended the charge against Medhat to ‘defamation of a revealed religion’ and ordered him to be detained for a fortnight.
The detention order was extended for a further 15 days and, as at the time of writing, Medhat’s lawyer Rafik Rafaat feared the sentence could be extended indefinitely.
In a report from Release, Rafik said he believed that Muslim extremists have been pressuring judges to crack down on Christian evangelists.
Muslims in Egypt are allowed free rein to hand out religious literature in public, including Korans. Christians should be allowed this right under law, but are finding their activities curtailed.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, said, ‘Two years ago, scores of churches were burning across Egypt and Christian homes and businesses were being targeted by Islamists. Today, despite the changes in the constitution, Christians still face discrimination. They are still being jailed for blasphemy, and that has to end’.
According to Release, there are other similar cases in Egypt. On 11 July, three Christians were arrested in Alexandria for handing out bags of dried dates containing a statement about God’s love.
Christian convert Bishoy Boulos is another. When he tried to change the religious status on his identity card, he was jailed, received death threats and had his home set on fire. He was jailed for reporting the persecution of Christians. Other journalists were also imprisoned, but have since been released. But Bishoy has now been accused of blasphemy.
Since the church burnings in 2013, thousands of Christians have left Egypt, adding to the growing exodus of Christians from the Middle East.