For 58-year old Egyptian Christian Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary and his 17-year old daughter Dina Mo’otahssem, Easter celebrations this year were particularly joyful. They had arrived in Paris, France on March 30th and were finally free to openly celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
The pair has spent the past two and a half years on the run in Egypt, moving between safe houses nearly every month and each has survived a violent attack from Muslims. Their ordeal began when El- El-Gohary filed a suit in August 2008 to change his religious designation from Muslim to Christian on his official ID card. Backlash from the Muslim community was swift and intense. Though officially allowed, changing one’s religious designation from Muslim to anything else in Egypt is equal to apostasy in the eyes of many Muslims and should be punished by death. El-Gohary had become a Christian in his 20s, but did not change his religious designation for fear of reprisal.
El-Gohary made the dangerous decision to change his religious identification when he realized that his daughter, Dina’s religious identification would be determined by his. Wanting to spare her future religious persecution and ensure that she would not be prohibited from marrying a Christian due to her identification as a Muslim, Dina’s father filed the suit and unwittingly began a two and a half year nightmare for the two. The father and daughter were repeatedly denied visa requests by the Ministry of the Interior as they attempted to flee the hostility of Egyptian Muslims.
The February revolution in Egypt was a “miracle from God” according to El-Gohary, who testified that God used the confusion to enable the tired family to escape to Syria. With the relative safety in Syria becoming increasingly uncertain as whispers of uprising sprang up there as well, El-Gohary frantically sought to obtain a French visa.
Members of an ethnic religious group from North Africa but primarily Egypt, where they are the largest Christian denomination in the country. More believers both in Egypt and the UK rushed to aid El-Gohary and Dina, helping them get to Paris and arranging a place for them to stay once they arrived. The weary father and daughter are resting in relative safety in Paris, while they await the processing of their application for asylum. The family hopes to eventually make it to the United States to be united with El-Gohary’s wife who lives and works there. But for now, they are simply enjoying their newfound freedom and praising God for delivering them.
Father God, we thank you for your faithfulness to El-Gohary and Dina! You have delivered them through chaos into a place of safety and rest. We ask that you would restore them to health as the last two and a half years have taken a physical toll on their bodies. Please grant them favor as they apply for visas and asylum. Soften the hearts of officials processing their applications and allow them to be re-united with their wife and mother. We thank you for your protection of El-Gohary and Dina over the past years. Please encourage their hearts and remove all fear from their minds. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen
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