Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Michael Terheyden

1/23/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

We need to start seeing ourselves as a family, a broken family to be sure, but a family nonetheless. And not just any family: We are members of the Body of Christ, and we are truly universal

Freedom of religion seems a lost hope for many in Egypt: A mother and her children have been sentenced to jail for converting to Christianity; Muslims continue to destroy Coptic property; and Coptic Christians flee their homeland.


By Michael Terheyden

Catholic Online (

1/23/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Christian, Copts, persecution, Egypt, Islamists, Michael Terheyden

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - As Islamists secure power in Egypt, freedom of religion seems a lost hope for many. Christians are being jailed, their property destroyed, and Coptic Christians are fleeing their homeland.

According to a report published on Egypt For Christ, last week a widowed mother, Nadia Mohamed Ali, and her seven children were sentenced to 15 years in prison by an Egyptian court in the city of Beni Suef, located about 75 miles south of Cairo. The reason for the sentence was because Nadia and her children converted to Christianity.

Nadia was born into a Christian family, but when she married her Muslim husband 23 years ago, the law required that she convert to Islam. After he died, she converted back to Christianity with her children. This was not unusual when former President Mubarak was in power.

It is believed that this harsh sentence reflects a new mood in Egypt as a result of the constitution Morsi finalized in late December. Under the new constitution, sharia law has been given much greater weight. Consequently, the Coptic community is fearful that this is a sign of a new wave of persecution. They may be right.

Based on a report published by the Assyrian International News Agency, in the Fayoum province about 80 miles south west of Cairo, Islamists destroyed the social services building belonging to the Coptic Church. The Church had all the required permits, as well as agreements with the village mayor and elders.

But Muslims accused the Copts of building a church, and mosques throughout the area called for their members to destroy it. Hundreds of Muslims carrying hammers and pipes answered the call. They destroyed the social services building to shouts of "god is great." The authorities did not arrive until after the building was destroyed, and no one has been arrested. Now, local Copts are fearful to go out of their homes. 

President Mohammed Morsi promised to respect Christians' rights, and referred to Egypt as "one homeland for all." But that has not been the reality for the Coptic Christian community living in Egypt.

Father Mena Adel says that the mood has changed in Egypt since the Muslim Brotherhood won so many seats in the parliamentary and presidential elections, and many Copts are afraid. Father Mena serves at Saints Church in Alexandria, which was bombed in 2010 as people were filing out of church after the New Year's Eve Mass. Twenty-three people died that night and about 80 people were wounded.

Tens of thousands of Copts have fled Egypt as Islamists began to flex their muscles after former president Mubarak was forced to step down in February of 2011. Many have gone to countries like Canada and Australia. Based on some estimates, approximately 40,000 have come to the United States. It would be a tragic affair if this turned into a full fledged exodus.
Sami, a Coptic Christian who drives a cab in Cairo, said, "We've been here forever. We're true Egyptians. We belong here." Sami is right, and history bears him out. By the time Muslims invaded Egypt in the seventh century, most Egyptians were Christians. Tradition has it that the apostle Saint Mark formed a church in Alexandria, Egypt shortly after the ascension of Jesus. It is said that Christianity spread from Alexandria throughout Egypt within half a century. After the Muslim invasion, all native Egyptians were called Copts.

Based on their Egyptian heritage, the modern-day Christian Copts are a living link to a past that stretches back to approximately 3100 B.C. and the pharaohs. They are also one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, a community which has always existed at the geographic center of our faith. Today, they make up about 10 percent of the population in modern Egypt, and they are the largest religious minority in the Middle East. Thus, the presence of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt is important for all of us.

For this reason and humanitarian reasons, many people have called upon the secular nations of the West to help the Copts, but this help has not materialized. Even the United States, with its close involvement and billion dollar payments to Egypt, has not provided help. But this is not surprising.

You may recall that European leaders refused to recognize their Christian heritage in the failed constitution intended to establish the European Union and in the Treaty of Lisbon which was ratified in 2009 in lieu of a constitution. In the United States, open persecution against Christians has begun. Under President Obama's leadership, his party has attempted to remove mention of God from its official platform; efforts have been made to narrowly define the meaning of religious freedom as mere worship; and the secular state has been firmly pitted against the Catholic Church.

In addition, President Obama and his administration have not only shown support for the Muslim Brotherhood, it appears they also undermined relations between Egypt's Islamists and the Copts when they falsely blamed the attacks on our embassies in Egypt and Libya on a video about the prophet Muhammad made by a Copt living in the United States.

As Christians are distanced in Western countries, persecuted and murdered in Muslim countries, we Christians are being forced to move beyond our narrow identities of East or West, Catholic or Protestant, American or Egyptian. We need to start seeing ourselves as a family, a broken family to be sure, but a family nonetheless. And not just any family: We are members of the Body of Christ, and we are truly universal.

We can see evidence of our universality if we look at a list of Catholic saints. They are from all over the world. We can even see this when we look at the most elite list of saints, the Doctor's of the Church. There are only 33 at present. Some of them are from the Middle East and North Africa, and lived there long before Muslims conquered these lands.

Hearing about a Christian widow and her seven children being put in jail, Church property being destroyed by Muslim mobs, and our Coptic brethren fleeing their homeland out of fear of greater persecution, should inspire the desire for unity in all Christians. If we do not take care of each other, who will?


Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.



Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Middle East

Fat ISIS member called 'The Bulldozer' earns most feared executioner in ISIS Watch

Image of


The obese extremist jihadi executioner called "The Bulldozer" has beheaded unarmed men and amputated children as a member of the terror group's "Chopping Committee." The savage built a brutal reputation as one of ISIS's most horrendous executioners. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

Syrian Civil War: A Timeline Watch

Image of What started the Syrian conflict and how did the U.S. get involved? (Anwar Amro/AFP/Ghetty Images).


Syria gained the world's attention for its humanitarian crisis after killing at least 300,000 of its people and displacing more than 10 million due to its bloody civil war. Refugees are tossed and turned in and outside their war-torn country and other nations join in ... continue reading

Syrian Army initiates major offensive with Russian help Watch

Image of


Backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah and Russian air strikes, the Syrian army has recently announced a "vast offensive" against rebels, as NATO warns about Moscow's rising military activity in the country.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With the launch of the ... continue reading

Saudi teen to be beheaded for teaching first aid to demonstrators in times of protests Watch

Image of


A second teenager will be beheaded in Saudi Arabia for participating in protests. The teen's sentence was reported only a few days following teenager's conviction sparked international outcry.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dawoud al-Marhoon was only ... continue reading

China to join Russian forces in the battle against ISIS Watch

Image of China joins forces with Russia to eradicate ISIS threats (AFP).


China is allegedly preparing to unleash its military forces in Syria and join forces with Vladimir Putin's army to destroy ISIS. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Russia has carried out a series of destructive and deadly airstrikes against the terrorist nation IS ... continue reading

Violence increases in Jerusalem's Old City as tensions between Palestinians and Israelis rise Watch

Image of Palestinian/Israeli tensions continue to rise (AP).


An 18-year-old Palestinian woman was allegedly shot by an Israeli man on Wednesday, after she stabbed him during a brawl in Jerusalem's Old City. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online)  - Both parties were taken to the hospital. While the man did not receive serious ... continue reading

U.S./Iran negotiation ban effective immediately Watch

Image of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


On Wednesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prohibited further negotiations between Iran and the United States, further isolating Iran following July's nuclear deal. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Khamenei, who is the highest authority in the ... continue reading

Disturbing graphic video encourages Arabs to kill Jews in Jerusalem Watch

Image of Video promotes Jewish stereotypes and encourages Arabs to kill Jews in Jerusalem (YouTube).


A disturbing video depicting the stabbing of Jewish men was uploaded to YouTube on Hamas' official Channel. YouTube removed the video, calling it a violation of the prohibition against promoting hate speeches. However, the video was reuploaded to a pro-Israel blog. LOS ... continue reading

Russian jets shadow U.S. drones in Syria Watch

Image of U.S. predator drones were


American officials revealed that Russian fighter jets intercepted and shadowed U.S. predator drones on three separate occasions following the initiation of Russian airstrikes last week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Intelligence reports from U.S. officials ... continue reading

Syrian woman gang raped and later stabbed to death in honor killing for being 'unclean' Watch

Image of Rockstan M. was killed by her own father and two brothers, allegedly on orders given by her mother (Twitter).


Rokstan M. managed to escape in Syria after being gang-raped by three men. She fled to Germany but was later murdered by her own father and two brothers, allegedly by her own mother's orders because she was seen as "unclean" after the sexual assault. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

All Middle East News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 1:16-25
16 For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:37-41
37 He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 13th, 2015 Image

St. Edward the Confessor
October 13: Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred III and his ... Read More