Egyptian Convert Arrested for “Inciting Sectarian Strife”
*Representative photo used to protect identity
An Egyptian Christian has been arrested, allegedly for his work with a US-based Arabic language Christian satellite television station that broadcasts in Egypt, as well as across the Middle East, North Africa, America and Canada.
Bishoy Armeya made news headlines around the world in 2008 when he lobbied to change his religion on his national identity card from Islam to Christianity, the first Egyptian to do so. That same year, he changed his name from Mohamed Hegazy as a sign of his conversion to Christianity. Armeya was arrested Dec. 4 in Nazlet El-Badraman village in Upper Egypt’s Minya governorate, which has been the scene of many attacks on churches and Christians in recent months.
His arrest comes on the heels of a spike in anti-Christian violence in the village. This spike came when a suspected romantic relationship between a Muslim woman and Christian man came to light on Nov. 25, a situation that locals would consider a severe violation of the honor of the Muslim woman and her family. One person was killed and nine were wounded during the ensuing violence.
The state-run news agency MENA said on Dec. 4 that a man identified only as “Bishoy” had been arrested under suspicion of “spreading sectarianism.” MENA reported that the man works for a Coptic Christian broadcaster in the United States and is known for reporting “inaccurate images of oppression” of Egypt’s Copts.
Various news accounts in Egypt since the arrest have reported that Armeya, 31, is being held on suspicion of a range of infractions, including spying, inciting sectarian strife, broadcasting false news, insulting Egypt, photographing security installations, proselytizing, receiving foreign funds, impersonating a journalist, and conducting interviews with citizens.
A source in Cairo said Armeya had been reporting from Upper Egypt for Altareek (“The Way”) satellite television channel since June 30. The station, established in 2005 and based in California, claims on its website that it produces news, drama, talk, documentary and education programming that “presents Christian values and points to Christ.” The service claims that its programing is created in a “politically and culturally sensitive” manner “because 80% are made in the region by local Christians and the rest are chosen by them specifically with their own people in mind.”
Mamdouh Nakhla, chairman of the Cairo-based Kalema Center for Human Rights, told Mideast Christian News the allegations against Armeya are “fabricated” and have been denied. If convicted, Armeya could face life in prison, according to Nakhla, who was involved in part of Armeya’s conversion case.
*Armeya is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 18, we will send an update when it becomes available
Father, You drew Bishoy out of darkness into the light of Christ. He has served You faithfully in Egypt and we thank You for the testimony to us of his bold witness. We pray for him as he faces this crossroads in his life. If the court rules in his favor, we pray that You will grant him both wisdom and boldness as he continues to serve You in this region of the country. If he is sent to prison, we pray that You will be his constant presence and encouragement, and that even there his testimony will light the way for many to come to faith in Christ. We pray that You will fill him with Your peace, with the sure confidence that You are directing his path. And we pray for the continued work of Altareek satellite television in Egypt and other countries. We pray in the name of Jesus, who works in many and varied ways on behalf of His people and His church. Amen.