Egyptian Christian's Recognition Struggle

March 13, 2009

Author: Christopher Landau

Source: BBC News

Maher al-Gohary has converted from Islam to Christianity. In spite of facing death threats, he's engaged in a legal battle to have his changed religion recognised on his official Egyptian documents.

We drive through the chaotic streets of Cairo to meet Mr Gohary's lawyer at a petrol station.

His client lives in hiding, and doesn't disclose his address.

He faces threats to his life - as a result of abandoning Islam for Christianity.

When we meet, in a small first floor office on an anonymous Cairo street, Maher al-Gohary is matter-of-fact about the dangers he faces.

"I am afraid. Many, many people can kill me and my daughter anytime," he says.

I asked him whether he felt these threats to his life were serious.

"Yes," he replied. "Anyone may kill us in the street."

His teenage daughter, also a Christian, sits at her father's side.

She, too, has been warned about the consequences of religious conversion.

"While I was going to school, someone stopped me and told me if my father does not go back to Islam, they will kill him and kill me," she tells me.

Legal recognition

Her father's legal challenge is a simple one.

He wants his state identification documents amended, so that his religious status is described as Christian.

Such a change would also mean his daughter could receive Christian religious education.

His lawyer, Nabil Ghobreyal, has already represented his client at several legal hearings - but no judge has yet issued a final verdict.