An Egyptian woman has been sentenced to 15 years in prison together with her seven children for converting to Christianity. Her supporters are now appealing to the U.S. government to stand up for religious minorities being persecuted in the Middle East.
A judge in the Egyptian city of Beni Suef, 75 miles south of Cairo, sentenced Nadia Mohamed Ali with the harsh punishment. Ali was actually raised Christian and converted to Islam before her marriage. After her husband’s death she thought to return to Christianity. She was singled out when authorities noticed her application to change her and her children’s religion on their national ID cards.
“[Egyptians who] change from Islam to Christianity, or come back to Christianity, face difficulties,” Ishak Ibrahim, a religion expert with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told Fox News. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ariel Vaagen said the administration of President Barack Obama calls “upon the Egyptian government to promote and protect universal freedoms, including freedom of religion, for all its citizens.”
However, Rep. Frank Wolf, (R-Va.), co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, criticized the Obama government for failing to address the issue. About 8.5 million Coptic Christians currently reside in Egypt. Since the election of President Mohamed Morsi last year, there has been a marked decline in religious tolerance in the country. “Too often we in the West have turned a blind eye to the suffering of persecuted people of faith,” Wolf said.
Ali’s sentence was “a major step backward in terms of laws and policies in Egypt,” said deputy director for policy at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Dwight Bashir.