By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Potentially thousands of Christians in Egypt may receive permission to have their faith recognized in new identity cards, after a court ruled in favor of two teenagers seeking to be treated as “Christians” at school, trial observers said.
Twin brothers Andrew and Mario Labib, 16, were born into a Coptic Christian family, but their father later converted to Islam. He also changed their identity cards into “Muslim” after divorcing his Christian wife, leading to tensions at school, said advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
“In 2008 they were held back for a school year after refusing to take an end-of-year examination for the Islamic class. [With the new recognition] as Christians they should be exempt from those classes,”added MEC in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife Tuesday, December 8.
“No one has the right to ask us to change it,” Andrew said last year in an interview. “Christianity is the religion that I was born in and I’m used to it,” Mario added. “I love Jesus and I believe in Him and I want to serve Him.”
The ruling means a victory for their mother, Camellia Lufti, a Coptic human rights activist and tax inspector. Although she won a long-running custody battle in 2009, a court decided in 2010 that the twins’ religious registration should remain “Muslim”, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
MEC said the ruling by Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court will have wider implications for other Christians seeking new identity cards in this heavily Islamic nation of 80 million people.
“More than 2,500 people were part of the application to the…Court,” the group said. It was not immediately known Tuesday, December 6, how many have received their new identity cards.
“The ruling applies to any who were originally registered as “Christian”, but whose registration was subsequently changed to “Muslim”, whether voluntarily or involuntarily,” MEC explained.
It comes amid international concerns however about the rise of what Christian rights groups and some Western politicians call “radical Islamists”, who received most votes in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections.
Last month, a visit to Egypt by the Dutch parliament’s foreign affairs committee was canceled after lawmaker Raymond de Roon from anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) was refused a visa, allegedly for accusing Cairo of “the ethnic cleansing” of minority Christians.
Raymond De Roon said he was refused a visa because Egypt’s government “don’t like the fact I described as ethnic cleansing the way 95,000 Christians have been driven out of the country since March 2011.”
The parliamentarian also said that “the murder” of Coptic Christians was “silent genocide”. In October at least 25 Copts were killed and over 300 wounded by security forces during a peaceful protest against the destruction of a church, witnesses said.
There have also been reports of other attacks against Christians.