Egypt (MNN) — Several times during His ministry on earth, Jesus warned His followers of the cost of following Him. John 15:18-20 says we should expect persecution and hate from the world.
Perhaps few stories exemplify this so clearly as the story of Mohamed Hegazy. His decision to follow Christ has brought heartache and, eventually, defeat.
As Open Doors USA and World Watch Monitor reports, back in 2007, Hegazy began the bold and unprecedented fight to change his legal standing from a Muslim to a Christian. He even changed his name.
Up to this point, he’d already endured years of persecution for his faith, including torture and jail time. In 2013, Hegazy was arrested, reportedly for inciting sectarian activity.
While in prison, Hegazy was abused and beaten over and over again. In June of this year, Hegazy was finally ordered to be released on grounds of false or expired charges.
However, the actual process ensured he wasn’t actually a free man.
In July, Hegazy had had enough. He publicly declared his return to Islam. Whether or not this was forced, we cannot know, nor can we know the pain that Hegazy endured all these years. Either way, it is a heartbreaking turn of events.
His story, while unusual, highlights the social and political pressures put upon Christians in Egypt.
We spoke with Emily Fuentes of Open Doors to learn more about this. We don’t know whether or not Hegazy truly turned his back on Jesus.
Fuentes says, “There’s been cases like this before in other countries where someone might do that just to get out of the situation, or just to calm things down even though they still believe in Christ and have to live as secret believers.”
In other cases, they have denounced their faith. Either way, Fuentes says, “We know it’s vital to be praying for this man, especially because he’s gone through so much.”
Open Doors works through partner organizations in-country to fight for the safety and security of Christians. The persecution looks different in every country.
“Egypt for example, it’s really ingrained throughout society, and basically young and old are facing persecution.”
In school, Christian children may be put at a severe disadvantage. They may be ignored and inhibited from learning. Open Doors tries to counter that.
“We work with partners to provide after-school programming for them — teaching them some basic skills so they can continue to advance in school even though they’re discriminated against.”
They also assist Christian women who have difficulty finding jobs because they are harassed in public. This help is especially vital for Christian women and children as they are already societal minorities.
Despite Egypt’s claims to respect religious freedoms, Christians feel they are treated as second class citizens. They face a gradient of trials: from the denial of public transportation to the burning of churches and homes.
Legally, they’re at a disadvantage as well. The Medialine news service reported earlier this month on protests in Cairo. Christians demanded legal rights in court.
Hegazy’s story is a reminder of how important it is to stand behind Christians who are facing persecution. Open Doors provides opportunities for you to do that.
Fuentes says, “It’s really about strengthening Christians, meeting them where they’re at where persecution materializes to help them stand strong in their faith throughout their life.”
The first and most important way you can help is to pray. Sign up for prayer alerts through Open Doors. Learn more here.